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Climate strike: thousands of students take to UK streets in call to stop global warming – as it happened

The climate change strikers have found an unusual source of support: Conservative MPs who have issued comments applauding those who took time off school or college to join the protests.

They include Claire Perry, the energy minister, who said: “I’m incredibly proud of young people who feel strongly that we need to take action.” She was joined by the former higher education minister Sam Gyimah, who tweeted approvingly: “Best to see this as an applied citizenship lesson on one day of the year.”

Meanwhile, Richard Benyon, the MP for Newbury, met a group of strikers at his office in the town. “Great to chat with young people so passionate about #climatechange. Glad to be able to talk of UK’s world-leading achievements in reducing [greenhouse gas] emissions and commitments to ocean protection and end[ing] coal power generation,” he later tweeted.

Among the homemade signs on display in Newbury was one reading: “I’ll focus on my A-levels when you focus on the sea levels.”

But the official position from the Department for Education was unchanged.

“I want young people to be engaged in key issues affecting them and involving themselves in causes they care about. But let me be clear – missing class won’t do a thing to help the environment. All they will do is create extra work for teachers,” said Damian Hinds, the education secretary.

“This is ultimately a matter for headteachers to consider, but I’ve repeatedly said I don’t want teachers being burdened with extra and unnecessary workload, and that’s exactly what these strikes would lead to.”

Only a small proportion of the UK’s 8 million school pupils are likely to have taken part in today’s action, although some schools allowed pupils to join in the protests if accompanied by parents or given written permission.

While the Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman, Layla Moran, a former teacher, joined a protest in Oxford, the shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, was more nuanced in her support: “I’m inspired by the many young people who want to support the #schoolstrike4climate movement, but I hope it can evolve so we can build on its success without the loss of time in the classroom.”

Also in Oxford, Windmill primary school has embraced today’s climate strikes by holding a “day of learning” about global warming.

A video of Greta Thunberg speaking at last year’s UN climate change conference has proved popular with pupils, who are understandably concerned about the impact of climate change on their lives.

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Who is Greta Thunberg?

‘Never too small to make a difference’

Thunberg (16) began a solo climate protest by striking from school in Sweden in August 2018. She has since been joined by tens of thousands of school and university students in Australia, Belgium, Germany, the United States, Japan and more than a dozen other countries.

‘Irresponsible children’

Speaking at the United Nations climate conference in December 2018, she berated world leaders for behaving like irresponsible children. And in January 2019 she rounded on the global business elite in Davos: “Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

Inspiration

Veteran climate campaigners are astonished by what has been achieved in such a short time. Thunberg has described the rapid spread of school strikes for climate around the world as amazing. “It proves you are never too small to make a difference,” she said. Her protests were inspired by US students who staged walk-outs to demand better gun controls in the wake of multiple school shootings.

Her mother, Malena Ernman, has given up her international career as an opera singer because of the climate effects of aviation. Her father is actor Svante Thunber. Greta has Asperger’s syndrome, which in the past has affected her health, he says. She sees her condition not as a disability but as a gift which has helped open her eyes to the climate crisis.

Photograph: Michael Campanella/CampanellaFoto

Pupils made banners with slogans including “Save the planet” and “There’s no planet B”, and are holding a picket line outside the school gates during the day, volubly encouraging parents – and passersby – to do more to tackle global warming.

Forty Windmill pupils also travelled into Oxford to take part in this morning’s protests. But rather than bunking off, these primary schoolchildren were supervised by their headteacher, Lynn Knapp, and a group of parents.

At least 1,000 mainly young people held a protest in Oxford and heard from the local MP Layla Moran and the Guardian columnist George Monbiot.

Knapp said it was important to raise pupils’ awareness of climate change and valuable for children to learn they can achieve change by making a stand about issues that matter to them.

chris church (@chrisjchurch2)

And a special shout out for Windmill primary school and their head teacher who took the decision to take action #schoolstrike4climate #YouthStrike4Climate #Youth4Climate #windmillprimary pic.twitter.com/XTWpP1Kpqx

February 15, 2019

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, welcomed the strike earlier today as “a cause for optimism in an often dark world”. She tweeted that the Scottish government was a world leader “but, given the urgency, it is right that we are all challenged to do more and that we hear the voice of the next generation”.

A wave of strikes are taking place today across Scotland, including in the Highland towns of Fort William and Ullapool, as well as Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The Scottish Green party education spokesman, Ross Greer, has written an open letter to education chiefs in Scotland urging them to confirm young people taking part in the strikes will not be punished for protesting.

In the Highlands, the local authority has said the hour’s strike will be recorded as an unauthorised absence, but will incur no punishment.

As well as protesting outside schools, young people have also gathered outside the Holyrood parliament in Edinburgh and outside the City Chambers in Glasgow.

Scottish Greens (@scotgp)

This is a generational rebellion against the #ClimateCrisis and those causing it.@Ross_Greer speaking at the Glasgow #YouthStrike4Climate #schoolstrike4climate #climatestrike pic.twitter.com/Cn7R1ANqHL

February 15, 2019

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