Teacher: Snow two weeks ago more disruptive than climate change protest 3 months ago

Teacher: Snow two weeks ago more disruptive than climate change protest

Well, there you go Mrs May

On Friday, thousands of teenagers and primary school children demanded action on climate change. They protested in London, Oxford, Leeds and across the rest of the UK. Students bunked off school and others walked out en masse at 11am, allowing the movement to describe itself as a strike, for others it was half term.

When asked whether the prime minister supported the strike, a Downing Street spokesperson said: "It is important to emphasise that disruption increases teachers' workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for."

JOE spoke to Gareth Townsend, a psychology teacher, about the potential classroom impact of students attending the protest.

Hi Gareth, there's been a lot of talk about classroom disruption after the protest. How significant is it?

None of my students were at a march but for me it’s no different than students being off for a trip.


So, what's your usual procedure for helping a student catch up on a missed day of classes?

If it was an absence you’re aware of, like a University Open Day, Trip or this protest, we'd speak to them in advance and give them any work that was going to be set in that session. PowerPoints, worksheets, questions etcetera, and ask them to complete them at home. If they had any questions they could email and I'd clarify.

Would a school typically grant an absence to attend a protest like this? Or is it really on a school-by-school basis?

It would differ between schools, I imagine it's very dependent on the Head's beliefs.

GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 15: Schoolchildren take part in a nation-wide student climate march in George Square on February 15, 2019 in Glasgow, United Kingdom.Thousands of UK pupils from schools, colleges and universities will walk out today for a nationwide climate change strike. Students in 60 cities from the West Country to Scotland are protesting, urging the government to declare a climate emergency and take action over the problem. They are keen that the national curriculum is reformed and the environmental crisis is communicated to the public. Similar strikes have taken place in Australia and in European countries such as Belgium and Sweden. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) Schoolchildren protest in Glasgow (Credit: Jeff J Mitchell)

How disruptive would you say missing a single day of lessons is? On a scale of 1-10.

It depends on the student, those with the work ethic to catch up around. 3 or 4, if they’re more reluctant to catch up it’d be a 5 or 6.


The snow a couple of weeks ago was much more disruptive.

You are presumably aware of the prime minister's comments about this, is she misguided to say as much?

I think so, education is much more than just being in a classroom with a teacher. Students attending the protest would have gained a lot from doing so.

What like?

Confidence, the experience of being part of something bigger than anything they've experienced before.

What's the staff room mood on this? What do your colleagues think?

It wasn't seen as being as big an issue as it's been portrayed, but like I said we didn't have any students off because of it. We were more concerned with just carrying on doing our jobs. There was a feeling that for those genuinely attending the protest and not just using it as an excuse for a day off it was commendable.

Finally, should we be concerned about the way young people are being portrayed in public discourse? Do you see much evidence to support it in your student body?

I think a lot of the comments, like those from Julia Hartley-Brewer, are quite patronising. Lots of young people are much more politically aware than they're given credit for. Of course there are several that aren't but that's the same with any age demographic.

Thanks for taking the time Gareth.

Thank you, been a pleasure.