Thousands of pupils set to be absent on 15 February, putting schools on the spot
Headteachers across the country will this week be faced with a tricky dilemma: should they allow their pupils to go on strike?
Thousands of schoolchildren are expected to absent themselves from school on Friday to take part in a series of coordinated protests drawing attention to climate change.
At a time when politicians fret that young people are failing to engage with the political process, a headteacher’s decision to take a hard line against the strikers could be counter-productive. But equally granting permission for a day off could set a dangerous precedent and lead to safeguarding issues, it is feared. Parents could be fined for taking a child out of school.
One would-be striker, Anna Taylor, 17, from north London, said her school had given her “mixed messages”.
“I chucked up a notice – ‘school strike in a few weeks’ – on the noticeboard in the common room and they wiped it off, said ‘you can’t actively publicise it in schools’ and ‘we’ll give you an unauthorised absence and detention if you strike’, but then they said ‘you can spread it by word of mouth and we do support your cause’.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said the decision was a matter for individual schools. “However, we are clear that pupils can only take term-time leave in exceptional circumstances, and where this leave has been authorised by the headteacher.”
Supporters of the UK Student Climate Network, which so far has pupils in about 30 towns and cities signed up to the day of action, argue that the “exceptional circumstances” excuse is applicable when it comes to Friday’s day of action.