UCU calls on colleges to let staff join climate strike

The CEO of a London college group has said staff and students are free to join the 30-minute stoppage

Kate Parker

FE staff and pupils set to join climate change strike

The CEO of London's biggest college group will encourage students to take part in the global climate change strike next week.

Roy O’Shaughnessy, chief executive of the Capital City College Group, said he felt his college's students should be involved in youth social action – and that they and their teachers would be free to join others in the planned walk-outs on 20 September. 

The news comes as the University and College Union (UCU) has written to the Association of Colleges (AoC), asking it to agree to a joint statement that both organisations "support staff in the sector joining a planned 30 minute stoppage".

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Climate change 'the main environmental debate'

Mr O’Shaughnessy said: “Climate change is the main environmental debate today, and we are committed to exposing our students to the democratic process and creating internal debate on how to be a responsible citizen when diverse views are involved.

“The modern study programme for learners aged 16-19 goes well beyond studying the core academic materials: we feel that students should take involvement in youth social action, finding ambitious ways to act and reflect on the issues of our times. This is one way we can help students to relate their studies back to the broader society they’re working for and are part of.”

Three of London’s biggest colleges make up the group: City and Islington College, Westminster Kingsway College and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London. The colleges will remain open as usual. Mr O’Shaughnessy confirmed that class time would not be lost, as sessions would be made up during the term.

Fighting the climate crisis

The strike is just the latest in a series of schools strikes around the world this year inspired by Swedish teenager Great Thunberg. Around 150 strikes are expected to take place in the UK. 

It follows a motion submitted at the TUC congress by the UCU for a 30-minute workday stoppage to coincide with the strike. The motion was passed unanimously, but rebranded as a "30-minute workday campaign action".

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said that Greta Thunberg’s work had been inspirational. 

'Climate change is a trade union issue'

“The trade union movement is sending a clear message that it is up to the challenge of fighting the climate crisis and building a stronger and greener economy. Climate change is a trade union issue and our planet's future is at risk,” Ms Grady added. 

The union’s head of FE, Andrew Harden, has written to the AoC’s chief executive, David Hughes, urging him to support the day of action alongside the UCU. The AoC has been contacted for comment. 

Jake Woodier from the UK Student Climate Network said: "We're delighted to see the trade union movement making big strides forward in its response to the climate crisis. We're calling for ambitious and bold solutions to the crisis like a green new deal to create millions of well-paid, secure and unionised jobs, massive investment in marginalised communities and a just transition for those in today's high emissions sectors. Working together, we can secure a just and prosperous world for all."

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a schools and colleges content producer.

Find me on Twitter @KateParkerTes

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