Joint letter between NEU, GMB and Unison sent to school heads in Sheffield.

 This is a copy of a letter between NEU, GMB and Unison which was sent to many headteachers in Sheffield schools regarding the climate change action on Friday 20th September.

Dear Sheffield School Leader,

Arguably the most pressing issue of our time is not Brexit, but the climate emergency.  Many may argue that this is not a union issue.  There are two answers to this.  One is that the strapline ‘there are no jobs on a dead planet’ has truth – if we allow climate heating to continue it will affect all livelihoods as our civilisation increasingly struggles to cope with it.  The other is that it is important that school based unions, as educational organisation, support debates, education and respect for legitimate protest on such an important issue.

You may already be aware that the youth strike for climate movement has called a world-wide general strike on Friday September 20th to protest about the insufficient action on the issue.  Although a UK ‘strike’ of union members within the definition of industrial action would be unlawful,  there are opportunities to work in a creative way to support the aims of our school and college students.

It would be great if you could raise awareness with staff and students in your establishment.  Some possible ideas for the day include;

  • Lunchtime and before/after school debates/meetings/banner making,
  • Social media activities – including any pictures of activities being posted (with school permission) in solidarity with the climate strikers.  The social media handle to use is ‘ys4csheffield’.
  • Reshaping  the normal timetable for this day, or part of the day, providing great educational opportunities. Lesson ideas are here.
  • Holding a fire alarm test for a burning planet – a proper test but with a theme.  Doncaster Council are doing this and unions have requested the same from Sheffield Council.
  • Send a message of support from your school to who will forward it on to the youth movement.

For any part-time members of staff who can make it, there will be a march and rally in Sheffield on the day starting at 11am at Devonshire Green (see enclosed leaflet).  

It is important to note that there is strong political support as the council has declared a climate emergency and 4 of the 5 Sheffield MPs will be holding ‘surgeries’ for young people at the rally.

We do understand the safeguarding concerns about the student protests.  There are major implications for schools where students want to just walk out on the day.  The most effective way to manage this appear to be by advising parents and students in advance that they will need prior parental consent and that it will be recorded as an unauthorised absence although no further action will be taken.  A number of schools have done this and also encouraged activities within school.

We hope you can support this important issue as far as practicable.

Many thanks,

Toby Mallinson, NEU

Kath Robinson, GMB

Lisa Smith, UNISON

National Education Union, Sheffield Branch & District, St Mary’s Community Centre, Bramall Lane, Sheffield S2 4QZ