THOUSANDS of kids skipper school today to take part in what could be the biggest worldwide climate protest in history.
Pupils across the country quit lessons this morning and were joined by workers to demand urgent action to tackle climate change.
The protests are part of a snowballing movement sparked by teenage activist Greta Thunberg who walked out of school each Friday to protest outside the Swedish parliament.
Parents were warned they could face £60 fines if their child attended the protests, which doubles if the payment isn’t made within 21 days.
Student Jessica Ahmed, 16, emailed her school to warn she would be joining the protests instead of being in class.
Speaking at a protest in Westminster, Jessica, from North London, said: “If politicians were taking the appropriate action we need – and had been taking this action a long time ago when it was recognised the world was changing in a negative way – then I would not have to be skipping school.”
Dozens of pupils from John Stainer Community Primary school in Brockley, South East London, are among those taking part in the capital.
Head teacher Sue Harte said the school had decided to take part because “climate change is clearly a big issue” and “children need to know that they have a right to democratic protest”.
They protested on the streets despite a warning that teachers who let kids walk out of class risked facing legal or disciplinary action.
The Teachers’ Union said there was “a duty of care to pupils”, adding: “Teachers cannot condone and encourage such behaviour and may be held responsible should they allow children and young people to do so.”
Business, energy and clean growth minister Kwasi Kwarteng said he could not endorse children leaving school to take part.
He said he supports the “energy and creativity” of students, but said time spent in school is “incredibly important”.
More than 200 events are taking place across the UK, with the main event at Millbank, in Westminster.
Slogans such as “if you breath air you should care”, “us snowflakes are melting”, “learn to change or learn to swim”, and “don’t be a fossil fool”, were among the homemade banners held aloft in the crowd.
Four-year-old Wolfe Young was pictured holding a placard saying “F**k off Boris” during a protest in Manchester.
As if to underline the urgency of the issue, the temperature is set to reach 26C in parts of Britain this weekend – 8C above the average for the time of year.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn praised children going on strike saying they were “leading the way” and called them an “inspiration”.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “It is unbelievable that we should need global strike action for the future of our planet to be taken seriously.
“The stark reality is that our climate is changing rapidly and we are running out of time to address it.
“I hope governments around the world who are failing to take action hear the voices of millions of people, young and old, unified in their call for action to save our planet. Our future depends on it.”
Two people were arrested this morning for taking part in an unofficial climate change protest on the Strand in central London.
Across the globe more than 3,400 events are taking place across 120 countries, making it the largest action yet.
Some of Friday’s first protests were held in Australia, where an estimated 300,000 people gathered at more than 100 rallies.
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The strikes mark the start of a weekend of action.
Tomorrow Extinction Rebellion plans to blockade the Port of Dover for four hours.
On Sunday Mr Khan will shut more than 12 miles of roads in London along with a further 340 streets, which will be turned into “play areas”.
However the move was criticised as being a “PR stunt” that will cost £1million – money that could have been invested in “proper measures to improve air quality”.
Keith Prince, a Conservative transport spokesman and London Assembly member, said: “Once again the Mayor has demonstrated that he is more interested in indulging in shameless virtue signalling instead of properly getting to grips with the big issues facing London.”