OPINION: Pupils taking a stand are  put in a tough spot

There are always going to be those who dismiss the intention by school children to go on strike as partaking in juvenile japes.

Monday, 11th March 2019, 4:33 pm
Updated Monday, 11th March 2019, 5:35 pm

And far be it for The News to encourage youngsters to skip school.

But scratch the surface and there is far more to this growing international movement than simply wanting to play hooky for a day.

Youth Strike 4 Climate (YS4C) is hosting rallies across the globe demanding governments take action on climate change. And following on from last month’s efforts, which saw 10,000 pupils walk out of lessons, there will be a rally this Friday in the city’s Guildhall Square.

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Many of these young people taking part are articulate and well-informed – and are justifiably worried about the world they are going to inherit.

It has been asked why the demonstrations can’t be planned for outside school hours. That though is to miss the point to some extent – strike action is designed to disrupt and draw attention, and on that front it has already succeeded on the latter point.

Should the children who take part be punished? Are these demonstrations proof of civic responsibility on behalf of the participants? These are harder questions to answer – as is proved in the mixed response from the schools The News spoke with for today’s story.

The official line is that participation will be an unauthorised absence. And yet, cabinet member for education, councillor Suzy Horton, adds: ‘It heartens me to see them claiming this [issue] as theirs so passionately.’

At a time when so many young people are criticised for their apathy and apparent inability to look beyond their own self-interests, this is direct political action from a group that is unable to make its voice heard yet at the ballot box. Those taking part in Friday’s action could be the leaders of tomorrow.