The DfE is clear on the climate protests; children should be in school learning stuff. Speaking on Radio 4’s Today, the ubiquitous reshuffle survivor Nick Gibb MP said that although the government shared young people’s concern about climate change, ...
“We don’t think it should be at the expense of a child’s education because what we want is for the next generation to be as well educated as possible to tackle these kinds of problem, and you don’t do that by missing out on an education.”
He added that even missing one day of school could affect examination results.
There is something in this argument, of course, and the DfE is consistent. Not all Heads agree, and practice is varied to say the least. One Head was very clear where she stood.
Sue Harte, the head of John Stainer Primary School in Brockley made it clear that no families would be challenged if they took children out of school to join the protest, and she went herself with the 16 members of the school council. The Times quotes Ms Harte saying that her pupils were “very passionate” about climate change and that attending the protest “seemed like a very good way of them exercising their right, and many many other children from the school wanted to come as well”. About 100 students from the school had gone to the protest with their parents.
The interesting aspect of this is why Ms Harte allowed attendance. There was no intention of learning anything about the climate. Rather, as Ms Harte made clear:
"I see it as parents wanting to educate their children about their democratic right, so it’s part of the British values lessons. It’s a very good way of them doing that. I think it’s very positive that they are doing that. Children feel very passionately about it. In school we’ve debated it. They have a climate-change afterschool club that they can choose to join. It’s something that we’ve woven into the curriculum. It’s a live and important topic that worries children."
This is all very plausible, and goes some way to assuage concerns that there's not much to learn about climate / climate change / etc on the marches.
Of greater concern, maybe, is what Ms Harte also said:
“It’s important that we give them facts but they are the Google generation so they see for themselves what’s so concerning, so we are sometimes just having to help them to understand what’s fact and what’s not."
This is all very well, but, as I explored last week, there's more to it than facts. There are the considerations in what I described as Stage 3 which concern what we can do once the facts are clear – as they are.
Are we really saying that what to do should be excluded from primary school considerations. I hope not.