Pupils in England should stay in school and become climate scientists to help solve the problems of the future, not walk out to take part in protests, the education secretary has said.
Damian Hinds told MPs today that those pupils who take part in events like the school strike for climate were disrupting learning for their peers and creating additional workload for teachers.
School is where you can learn to be a climate scientist or an engineer and solve these problems in the future
It comes after Anna Taylor, the 18-year-old co-founder of the UK Student Climate Network, announced that English pupils were “only getting started”, and heralded further action.
Thousands of pupils from English schools took part in three walk-outs in February, March and April this year to campaign for action to prevent climate change.
The protests have divided the education sector. Headteachers’ groups have called for sanctions against those who leave school to take part, but the National Education Union, which represents classroom teachers, has voted to stand in solidarity with those striking and oppose “any reprisals” against them.
Asked for his message for pupils who choose to take part in the strikes at education questions today, Hinds said he was “delighted” when children took a “very active interest in some of these incredibly important issues”, but said they were better off in school.
“On a number of environmental topics it’s very much children and young people who have taken the lead,” he said. “But my message to them on a Friday afternoon is that the best place for you to be is in school. That is where you can learn to be a climate scientist or an engineer and solve these problems in the future.
“To do otherwise, to be absent from school, tends to disrupt learning for others and causes additional workload for your teachers.”