Portsmouth schoolchildren come out in strength for climate change strike

Extinction Rebellion campaigners, Selma Heimendinger and Jason Beckett outside the Guildhall.'Picture: Habibur Rahman
Extinction Rebellion campaigners, Selma Heimendinger and Jason Beckett outside the Guildhall.'Picture: Habibur Rahman
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Hundreds of children striking from school were joined by leading political figures in a 1,000-strong show of force demanding action against climate change.

Abigail Hartt, a 17-year-old student from Portsmouth College, felt so strongly about the lack of action being taken that she broke her two-year 100 per cent attendance record.

Lia Curissimi, 15, (left) and Emily England, 15.

Lia Curissimi, 15, (left) and Emily England, 15.

‘I’m no longer willing to sit back,’ she said. ‘Governments are ignoring the facts and choosing not to listen.’

Year 9 Priory School pupil, Sylvie Broadbent, 13, added: ‘We all need to do our bit. If we as young people can make small changes then surely those in power can make the big changes needed.’

Year 11 pupils from Crofton School took time out from their GCSEs to attend.

Emily England, 15, said: ‘We get taught the importance of GCSE’s but what’s the point if we don’t have a healthy world to live in.’

Abigail Hartt, 17, relinquished her 100 per cent attendance record to go to the rally.

Abigail Hartt, 17, relinquished her 100 per cent attendance record to go to the rally.

Classmate, Lia Curissimi, 15, who was dressed in plastic to highlight the need for recycling, added: ‘I feel so passionately about this. Hopefully people in power will sit up and take notice.’

The city council, which recently declared a climate emergency, turned out to support the movement.

Cabinet member for education, Cllr Suzy Horton, said: ‘I’m 100 per cent behind the action. It’s their future and action needs to be taken. We’re reaching a tipping point with catastrophic consequences.’

Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, spoke at the rally of his support for the children’s movement.

Cabinet member for education, Cllr Suzy Horton, is 100 per cent behind the movement.'Picture: Habibur Rahman

Cabinet member for education, Cllr Suzy Horton, is 100 per cent behind the movement.'Picture: Habibur Rahman

Stephen said: ‘It’s a travesty that young people are having to take such action but I fully support people here today. It hit home when an eight-year-old said to me ‘there’s no planet B.’

Council leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said he fully endorsed Suzy’s view and had emailed all council workers giving his backing for those who wished to attend the rally.

The council’s stance comes during the Miss School Miss Out campaign to improve school attendance. It’s a stance which may come into conflict with some of the city’s schools.

Speaking before previous strike action, Simon Graham, headteacher at St Edmund’s Catholic School, said: ‘Whilst the school acknowledges that such actions give publicity to this important topic, it questions why the organisers are asking young people to truant school and miss their education.’ 

Portsmouth University, biology and biochemist students on the Guildhall steps.''Picture: Habibur Rahman

Portsmouth University, biology and biochemist students on the Guildhall steps.''Picture: Habibur Rahman

Alison Jeffery, director of children families and education, who was in attendance at the rally, said: ‘It’s difficult as I feel children should be in school but I understand and sympathise with young people who feel the need to make this stand.’

Suzy feels the importance of the campaign takes precedence.

‘It’s important to see the bigger picture and I fully understand why young people feel the need to be here. I don’t see there’s a conflict as taking part in this campaign is a learning experience in itself.’