By Sarah Bates
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School strikers hit streets once again

This article is over 4 years, 11 months old
Issue 2659
School student strikers earlier this year
School student strikers earlier this year (Pic: Guy Smallman)

School student strikers were preparing for their fifth strike for the climate on Friday of this week. They remain determined in the face of threats from school bosses.

“They can’t put all of us in detention,” Sheffield striker Patrick Wakefield told Socialist Worker. “We’ve learned if they want to give us all detention, they physically don’t have the rooms to do it.”

Fourteen year old Patrick is part of a movement demanding that adults take the threat of climate catastrophe seriously—and take action over it. “We don’t have a say in what our lives are going to look like in ten or 15 years,” said Patrick. “It feels like we don’t have a voice.”

But the movement over climate change has given confidence to people. It has seen thousands of teenagers and younger students drawn into political activity for the first time.

And along with action from Extinction Rebellion (see right), it has pushed the climate crisis to the top of the political and media agenda.

“Six months ago I did feel pretty helpless,” explained Patrick. “I knew about climate change, I knew it would affect us. But the strikes have raised our sights.”

The next globally coordinated school strike is set to be 20 September. Climate strike leaders issuing a call for workers to join them in a week of action.

In Britain, the action has been coordinated by the UK Schools Climate Network (UKSCN).

Patrick is part of the UKSCN trade union outreach group and has spoken at trade union branches to raise support for September’s action.

He said action by workers could be a critical element of the walkouts.

“While our protests are civil disruption, there is no real economic disruption” he said.

“There’s no incentive to make the bosses, or the 1 percent who control production, listen. They control how much carbon they emit, but a general strike would hurt those at the top.”

Student strikers are getting organised in cities and coordinating action from different schools. Patrick has been part of organising mass leafleting and dropping a banner declaring “youth strike for the climate” across one of Sheffield’s main roads.

He said so many are pulled into this movement because their futures are on the line.

“People are angry because our futures are not being decided by us but by the actions of Barclays, BP, and oil companies,” he said.

The school climate strikes have been a breath of fresh air. Now trade unionists need to start thinking seriously about how they can bring people out on a climate strike in September.

Solidarity for student strikers cannot remain at the level of passive “endorsement” and “support”. Building for action by workers in September has to be the next step.

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