Youth of Birmingham skip school to march the streets and “change our future”

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Pupils missed school today (20th September) to join other protestors at Victoria Square in Birmingham in demanding that the government take steps to tackle the climate crisis.

Birmingham Eastside spoke to pupils missing school, including students Annabelle and Caitlin, both aged 16.

Caitlin explained that her school was under advice from Telford and Wrekin Borough Council that their absence would be unauthorised. “But as an academy our school isn’t actually under advice from our borough.”

Both Annabelle and Caitlin attend Newport Girls High School. They say they now have two unauthorised absences on their record.

“It’s quite concerning,” says Annabelle. “However, I may be missing 3 hours of my A-level subjects today, but what’s 3 hours of lessons compared to a climate crisis that is irreversible within approximately 17 months?”

Birmingham was one of 150 cities worldwide where #ClimateStrike protestors took to the streets to make governments aware of their views on global warming.

Caitlin became interested in climate change when Greta Thunberg protested. She says she doesn’t have assemblies or lessons about climate change but that “every person is entitled to learn about something that is lifechanging.”

Some Birmingham schools supported students attending the protest.

One of the organisers of the protest is a student from Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA), and school principal John Reilly told Birmingham Eastside: “We expect a number of post-16 students to not attend [today]”.

He said the school told students that if they wanted to attend the protest their parents should “cover the normal basis of an absence as if they were unwell.”

He added that BOA actively works with pupils to “form their own mind” by offering GCSE subjects such as Citizenship.

Shabana Parveen attended the protest with her young son, who attends St John’s Primary School. She said the school was supportive in authorising the absence and encouraged him to wear his uniform to the protest “as he represents St John’s values.”

14-year-old school pupil Gabby, who attends Queensbridge School in Moseley, said: “It’s our future and the people in charge aren’t really considering that fact, so we want to learn more about it and try to change our future.”

Pupils spoke of headteacher Mrs Reeves supporting students’ desire to attend the protest — so long as they came back into school for afternoon registration.

Holly, another pupil at the school, said that she was adamant about “changing her future” and recognised the need for her efforts to extend past the protest, speaking about the importance of recycling, using public transport instead of taxis or lifts and reducing her own meat consumption.

However King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls in Kings Heath was not so lenient.

Pupils said their school refused to authorise the absence and did not encourage students to attend.

Pupil Olivia said: “It is easier for me to catch up on a few hours’ homework than it is to sort out the state of our planet.

“We need to show the government how many people know about climate change and to apply pressure on them to take action.”

Reporting by Olivia Lawlor and Alia Roadley
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