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Teaching union urges local authorities not to punish pupils taking part in climate strikes

© Sarah Silbiger/Getty ImagesSwedish climate activist Greta Thunberg with other student environmental advocates
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg with other student environmental advocates

Scotland’s largest teaching union is urging local authorities not to punish pupils who take part in youth climate strikes on Friday.

Youngsters are taking part in more than 150 demonstrations around the UK calling for action on climate change as part of a global movement inspired by teenage activist Greta Thunberg.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has written to Scotland’s 32 local authorities urging them to respect pupils’ rights to take part in the action.

Edinburgh City Council last month announced pupils will only be authorised to miss school to go on climate strikes once a year, saying regularly missing school could affect their education.

In the letter, EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Whilst the EIS is not encouraging pupils/students to participate in anti-climate change strikes, we recognise that many will do so.

“We believe that their right to do so should be respected and that participants should not be sanctioned or punished as a consequence.

“If we are to encourage our pupils to be confident individuals that effectively contribute to society on global themes including sustainability, we shouldn’t seek to punish them when they campaign for global sustainability.”

On Friday, there will be major marches in Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as demonstrations in many other locations around Scotland including Inverness, Fort William and Lerwick.

Oxfam Scotland said reducing emissions quickly in the next 10 years is essential to help prevent the climate emergency from becoming a “global climate catastrophe.”

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “From the surge in support for Greta Thunberg to the global school strike movement, it is inspiring to see the next generation demand urgent and sustained action on the climate crisis.

“Having helped to cause this crisis, rich countries like Scotland have a moral obligation to the world’s poorest countries where the current generation is already living with the life and death consequences of decades of inaction.

“Young people around the globe, including in Scotland, know this is wrong and that things need to change.

“We’ll be joining these huge marches on Scotland’s streets because the climate emergency requires an emergency response and we want to echo the school strikers’ call to world leaders to match rhetoric with immediate and lasting policy changes.”

The Church of Scotland has called on adults to listen to young people’s concerns about climate change and try to understand why they are profoundly worried about the future.

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council, said: “Climate change will change the lives of children growing up today and they will experience profoundly the impact in decades to come.

“It now casts a long shadow over their lives and they have responded to the inspiring example of the Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg and want to be heard.

“We are mindful of the many arguments for and against schoolchildren ‘striking’ and appreciate the strong feelings this evokes.

“Rather than taking a stand for or against climate strikes, we urge churches and congregations to listen to children in their communities.”