As students across the United Kingdom prepare to join the global "climate strike" movement later this week by walking out of class, the nation's union of headteachers—representing principals, headmasters, and other school leaders—has endorsed the coordinated actions as a demonstration to be "applauded."
The National Association of Head Teachers in a statement offered their support to students in at least 30 towns and cities nationwide who have vowed to strike.
"Society makes leaps forward when people are prepared to take action," a spokesperson for the union said. "When you get older pupils making an informed decision, that kind of thing needs to be applauded. Schools encourage students to develop a wider understanding of the world around them, a day of activity like this could be an important and valuable life experience."
Some teachers and school leaders have refused to endorse the climate strike, saying absence on Friday will be considered truancy—but students have said they'll attend the strike anyway.
Seventeen-year-old Anna Taylor, who has organised a nationwide school strike this Friday to protest climate change, told #r4today her school said "they're going to give me a detention and an unauthorised absence... but I'm going to go anyway" pic.twitter.com/3pQWrkNJ1C
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) February 11, 2019
The U.K. Student Climate Network has distributed letters to some parents, granting permission to students to take part in the strike.
"I'm aware of U.K. law that permits parents to only give permission for their child to miss school on medical grounds or in a few other cases, one of which is under 'exceptional circumstances,'" reads the letter. "My view is that having only 12 years left to cut CO2 emissions by 50 percent, as per the latest UN IPCC report, is pretty dire and exceptional circumstances to find ourselves in. And it in this light that I'm giving my child permission."
Clive Lewis, a member of Parliament who represents the Labour Party, agreed with the reasoning on social media, saying, "Climate breakdown probably just-about qualifies" as "exceptional circumstances."
Pupils’ #ClimateStrike threat poses dilemma for heads.A DfE spokeswoman said:..”We are clear that pupils can only take term-time leave in exceptional circumstances”>Well i reckon #ClimateBreakdown probably just-about qualifies in that case https://t.co/qkz3UOxCsR
— Clive Lewis (@labourlewis) February 10, 2019
The strike, which is scheduled for 11:00am to 2:00pm on Friday, follows weekly protests attended by tens of thousands of students in Brussels and across Europe, demanding government officials act rapidly to drastically curb fossil fuel emissions that are warming the globe and contributing to dangerous sea level rise and extreme weather.
The largest march drew about 35,000 students and supporters to the European Union capital.
The U.K. Student Climate Network, which is organizing the Youth Strike, is calling on the British government to formally declare a climate emergency and consider young people's concerns about the climate when making policy. A survey of 1,300 young adults and children by Earth Institute last year found that 95 percent of respondents believed the U.K. government is not taking aggressive-enough action to combat the climate crisis.