Three teachers on their half-term holiday deliberately broke the law by defacing the DfE headquarters in Westminster to make a statement about climate change.
The teachers, all members of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) environmental campaign group, sprayed the words “Teach the Climate Truth” onto the main entrance of the DfE’s Sanctuary Buildings to reflect calls for climate emergency be made part of the national curriculum.
One of the teachers, a maths teacher from London, who only gave her name as “Shel”, said she didn’t know what her headteacher would say to her actions, and that the reaction of headteachers would differ from school to school. But she said: “We’re potentially putting our jobs at risk – even though this is my half-term and this is my free time – but we have no choice.”
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Another of the three, a history and RE teacher from Exeter, who refused to give her name, said: “Our professional standards could be brought into question, and there is a question as to whether we’re setting a good example to our students, but we’re not ashamed.”
The three teachers spray-painted their hands with the same red paint they used on the building – unafraid to be caught "red-handed” by the police for their crime.
They were among more than 200 campaigners, including up to 100 teachers and a number of children, who marched on the DfE in the rain this morning to deliver a letter calling for “appropriate support to teach the reality of this crisis and to properly prepare young people for their future".
The letter highlights warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that there are just 11 years to make “far-reaching changes to every aspect of society” in order to avoid the “catastrophic consequences of climate and ecological breakdown".
The other teacher, a geography teacher from West London, who gave his name as Finn, said: “We need to increase the teaching and training of young people and adults about this climate crisis. I teach geography and work closely with science teachers and we do not even reference the ecological crisis.”
XR coordinator Tim Jones, who quit his £38,000 teaching job earlier this year to campaign full-time with XR and who has himself been arrested for obstructing a highway during a previous demonstration, said the teachers were potentially putting their jobs at risk. He said: “These three teachers have chosen to do something which they would never normally do which is to break the law by effectively defacing a government building…and they are sitting there with their red hands to acknowledge what they’ve done. Nobody is trying to get away with anything.”
A spokesperson for the DfE said: “It is important that pupils are taught about climate change, which is why it is included in the national curriculum for both primary and secondary schools.
“This government is a world leader in tackling climate change, and we are the first major economy to legislate for net-zero emissions by 2050 – a target recommended by the Committee on Climate Change.”