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Classes join struggle to stop war in Iraq

Children plan to abandon their desks in another attempt to make Tony Blair think again. Adi Bloom reports

Pupils across the country are threatening a mass classroom walk-out, if the Government declares war against Iraq.

Today, pupils from secondary schools and sixth-form colleges across Britain will meet in London to set up a committee to co-ordinate action against the war.

Teenage delegates will be addressed by speakers from the Stop The War campaign, before convening to discuss ideas for school-based protest.

Richard McEwan, schools and colleges liaison officer for Stop The War, organised the meeting after speaking to a number of school-based anti-war groups. "There were loads of students at the demonstration on Saturday. It makes sense to work together," he said.

Many pupil activists agree that widespread action is the only way for their voices to be heard.

Hannah Kulcher, a 16-year-old pupil at Camden school for girls, in north London, said: "This will cause disruption, but you have to cause disruption to make an impact. This type of action could then inspire people in all different industries to do the same: hit the Government where it hurts."

As a Year 11 student, Hannah will be sitting GCSE exams later this year.

But she has no reservations about sacrificing valuable revision time: "It's a case of priorities. My GCSEs are obviously quite important. But so is war."

Thirteen-year-old Dan Gold-water, who will be representing Fortismere school in the London borough of Haringey, says collective action is vital, as it will send a clear message to the Government.

"This will show that we are motivated and active, especially as we don't have a vote. And, if Tony Blair makes a bad impression now, we'll be more likely to choose someone else when we are able to vote."

Most pupils at the meeting will come from London schools. But a number of teenagers will travel from beyond the capital: there will be representatives from Manchester, York and Cambridge. Organisers hope that they will return to their home towns and generate nationwide support for the walk-out. There are also plans to co-ordinate protests with movements in Northern Irish and Irish schools.

And strong anti-war sentiment among teachers may provide staffroom support for any pupil action. Ollie Johnson, RE teacher at the Causeway school, Eastbourne, believes it is important for pupils to work together. She said:

"If war breaks out we do need to stop and think and be together. Kids'

voices need to be heard."

But, says 17-year-old Nathan Jones, who attends Parliament Hill school in Camden, north London, protests will go ahead whether or not they receive official backing.

"It's not something the school will help us with, I think: at the end of the day, it's still bunking," he said.

Diary, 17

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