Starting with Greta Thunberg, a 15 year old student, holding a vigil every Friday at the Swedish parliament, in the last six months tens of thousands of school students from Australia to Nairobi to Belgium, Holland and Germany have gone on strike calling for urgent action to avert climate change. This growing global movement deserves the full support of teaching unions. Here’s a video for the first UK strike this Friday - 15th February. Just scroll down to the pinned post below the event info and pass it on as widely as you can. https://www.facebook.com/Strike4Youth/videos/353417158581705/
A representative of the NAHT (heads union) said:
“Society takes leaps forward when people are prepared to take action. Schools encourage students to develop a wider understanding of the world about them. A day of action like this could be an important and valuable life experience.”
There will be a further global day of action and school students strike on March 15th. So, while this will start with the most concerned and dedicated young people, it is not going away and all of us have an interest in helping it grow.
They have also called for a day of action at the DfE between 11am and 3pm on Feb 22nd - during half term see below for details and letter to DfE calling on them to urgently overhaul our education system so that it can play its part in creating a sustainable society. Also see below draft resolution for National Education Union districts aiming to amplify student demands.
XR London Action: Climate Truth for Schools February 22nd (Half-term)
When was the last time you heard school students discussing their lesson on climate change? Exactly, it doesn’t happen. So, on the 22nd February, we’re taking this issue right to the heart of the UK school system: the Department of Education. We will demand that those in a position of responsibility face the truth and allow educators to teach it. Please join us. Everyone is very welcome, especially families. We have sent them this letter outlining our demands: https://goo.gl/hJY2un. (Also below)
You can help by printing it and sending a copy yourself. If you have children in your family, please add their handprints to the letter (in paint) before you send it. The postal address is: Department for Education, 20 Great Smith St, Westminster, London, SW1P 3BT. Thank you.
Why are we doing this? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just told the world what our future looks like. Yet the science and economics to explain this catastrophe are completely ignored by UK curricula. While a few independent and specialist schools do address the reality of climate change, most state schools don’t. It might be covered briefly in Geography and touched upon in RE lessons, but most worryingly, the Science curriculum could mention the topic as little as four times across the entire course of secondary education. The message is that climate change and climate science are peripheral and undecided issues. What students are principally taught, by the time they have finished their GCSE courses, is that education is a process of acquiring qualifications for the purpose of some future utility - a future that now looks increasingly damned. We believe young people have the right to know how their planet has been poisoned; we believe they should be empowered to face reality. Whether you are a student, parent, grandparent, teacher or just someone who cares about education, come and join us on what promises to be a fun day in which we take our concerns to those in power. Families are very, very welcome. - Schedule for the day to follow. - If you can make banners/art work/music/sing/wish to speak etc then please make yourself known (post in the discussion). We’ll be organising some artwork sessions nearer to the date.
To the Ministers and Employees of the Department for Education
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told us last October that we have 12 years to radically change every aspect of society if we are to avoid disaster. Highly regarded scientists, like Peter Wadhams, have highlighted the political restrictedness of the IPCC and the glaring omissions and over-simplifications of its report. We must accept the likelihood that 12 years is a vastly over-generous window of opportunity. We have killed 60% of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish since 1970. Insect populations are collapsing, coral reefs are bleached and dead, natural disasters are worsening, crops are failing, forests are being felled or burning and forced migration is beginning.
If we keep this information out of the public domain – out of schools, for example – perhaps we might avoid some awkward conversations in the years to come. We could say we never knew. After all, who wants to tell a child that, unless we make unprecedented changes to how we live, we are heading for societal collapse, famine, war and the increasing likelihood of human extinction? Telling the truth exposes us to the responsibility of facing it ourselves. Which is exactly why we must tell our children: not simply to inform them (many are far better informed than older generations) but also so that we can be held to account for our own actions. We must follow the example of the brave young people who will, on coming Fridays, be striking from school to demand truth and action.
When we have had the evidence for decades, why does it amount to little more than a footnote in our national curriculum – a vague and marginal concern? Geography lessons cover the basic theory but in the national curriculum for Science the evidence for anthropogenic climate change is described as ‘uncertain’. The issue could be mentioned in as few as four Science lessons in the entire course of secondary education. In academies there may be no mention at all. If not in schools, where should the public learn about where our way of life is taking us? Power knows the value of ignorance. Our Government is increasing subsidies for fossil fuels while presiding over an educational system that effectively denies the consequences of such a policy.
Imagine if we had the courage to make our schools places where students learned how to repair the damage we have caused. If we have the courage to act now they could be the ones to revive our dying soil, regenerate biodiversity and rebuild the ecosystems that sustain us.But we must act now. We must teach students more than just how to pass tests. We must give them the opportunity to discover what is wonderful and life-giving. And we must urgently equip them with the skills, insight and courage to face what is coming. To do otherwise is an act of criminal negligence.
The evidence tells us that any imagined future for which we are currently preparing our young people is a dream that will never be realised. The lives of every one of our children will be defined by the effects of climate and ecological breakdown. We therefore make the following demands:
1. The ecological and climate crisis is immediately announced as an educational priority.
2. Well-founded and evidence-based training is provided for teachers to convey this message, including the scientific and economic causes of the crisis, what governments and society need to do about it and also on how to support young people when taking on this information. This should be implemented by no later than September 2019.
3. An immediate overhaul of the current curriculum, in the light of scientific evidence and without political interference, aimed at preparing children for the realities of their future on this planet.
Please – because we love our children so much – let’s teach them the truth. We await your response with due impatience and loving rage: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Insert name of District here) NEU notes:
1. The IPCC report of 2018 which identified the urgent need to limit global warming below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels and the urgency of taking accelerated action within the next 12 years.
2. The IPCC have identified that currently global emissions put us on track for potentially catastrophic increases of up to 4-5 degrees warming by the ended of the century.
3. The action taken by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish school student who initiated school student strikes and protest outside the Swedish Parliament to demand urgent action on climate change - #FridaysforFuture.
4. Other students strikes including in Australian on Friday 30th Nov which saw 10,000s of school students strike to demand urgent action on climate change; which are now spreading globally.
5. That young people in schools and colleges will be in their old age by the end of this century so have a huge stake in what happens to our climate and the actions or otherwise that are taken to urgently reduce emissions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees
6. The call for a UK school students climate strike on Friday Feb 15th to coincide with the next #FridaysforFuture school strike called by Greta Thunberg. and the further call for a day of global action on March 15th.
(insert name of District) NEU resolves to;
1. Recognise the significance of the school student strikes and support the student demands for the UK government to take urgent action on climate change.
2. To ask Head Teachers to take a sympathetic attitude to school student strikes to allow those who want to participate in the protests to attend and to organise assemblies, tutor time, themed learning weeks and other extra-curricular initiatives to discuss the issue of climate change and solutions to it in the weeks leading up to such strikes.
3. To call for government to make changes to the school curriculum to ensure that climate change is taught to ensure a deeper understanding of the problem and the solutions to it; thereby meeting their obligations under Article 12 of the Paris Agreement and for the national union to take this matter up in our discussions with the Shadow Education team.
4) To send this resolution to our national executive members with the request that it is discussed at the JEC.