City Council backs climate striking school pupils

City of Edinburgh Council has today agreed that school students absent in support of “climate strikes” will not be punished for doing so.

In a move believed to be the first of its kind in Scotland, the council’s education committee backed a Green councillor proposal which says that young people taking part in the strike on 15 March will be accepted as absent as long as parents or carers have given them permission to take part.

The climate strikes are part of a growing global movement, begun by Swedish 16 year old Greta Thunberg last August, drawing attention to the scale of climate breakdown and the need for urgent action. The strikes have gathered momentum in the UK since the start of 2019, with the next big day of action on 15 March. However, some families and young people have raised concerns about how schools and education authorities might handle absences for strikes amid fears that young people could be punished for being off school.

The proposal was put forward by Edinburgh Green councillor Mary Campbell. She said:

“Climate breakdown is the defining issue of our age. The future will depend on how willing we all are to listen to children and young people whose futures are most at risk, versus some politicians or vested interests who want to delay or do nothing.

“So that it is why I want Edinburgh to show a lead and recognise the importance of the climate strikes, and support the children and young people taking part. I am glad that the Education Committee passed this motion today, and I believe it shows how seriously we take both climate breakdown and the voice of our children.”

The motion presented is as follows:

1. Committee recognises that children and young people in Edinburgh have self-organised involvement in the worldwide Strike for Climate. This involves children striking from school on Fridays to protest outside the Scottish Parliament for action on climate breakdown, with a global day of action planned for the 15th of March involving 50 nations.

2. Committee believes that school staff should support and engage with pupils who feel so passionately about climate breakdown, who are trying to play their part as responsible citizens and make their voices heard. This could be expressed through a variety of methods that link to experiences and outcomes within Curriculum for Excellence. There should be no punitive action for pupils who are concerned about climate breakdown and feel they need to participate in the climate strike.

3. Committee requests that the school strike for climate action taking place on 15 March  outside the Scottish Parliament should be considered by the authority as an authorised absence from school as long as a parent/carer has sent prior written permission to their child’s school and a clear statement that the parent/carer will be responsible for their child during the absence from school.