On a glorious early summer’s day in February…

The kind of day that people are default dressed for the season they expect and are sweating in bright sunshine in padded jackets and woolly hats.

The papers report that swallows have been seen in the South West and Wales.

Outside Parliament people are enjoying global heating while they can.

With calls of “TEACH THE TRUTH!”, outside the Department for Education a polite but determined lobby of over 100 teachers, academics, students, parents and children (mostly girls) gather in the light to call for the blinkers currently preventing our education system from properly acknowledging the urgency of climate breakdown to be thrown away- so we can teach comprehensively about it with no punches pulled – and generate the skills and values needed to stop it.  The way that our institutions press on regardless with business as usual in the face of the biggest existential threat human civilisation has ever faced is generating this bewildered determination to save our own future.

Speeches follow from a Professor at the Open University and Secondary teacher thoughtfully saying what they know and expressing their frustration at how little they can officially say in classes, Exec members of the UCU (lecturers) and NEU (teachers) unions beginning to turn their unions firmly into this struggle and calling for the government to realise its legal obligations under article 12 of the Paris Agreement to shift their education systems so they are part of the solution, fiercely articulate student strikers – one of them only 14, but with a maturity well beyond her years – excited by their sudden significance, sense of agency and solidarity; and scared by the reason they feel they have to break rules and previous bounds; and an American guy dressed in a rather Santa like red robe who seems to be there to prove that movements like this need a strong dose of eccentricity to keep them sane; who nevertheless speaks a lot of common sense.

After the speeches, a lesson. An average size class of about 30 students, but varying in age from 2 or 3 right up to 6 form – most of whom look like illustrations from a Shirley Hughes book -sits right in front of the speakers platform, mostly on little chairs made of cardboard boxes with the XR symbol painted on the backs, with extraordinary patience and better behavior than any class I have ever been in – either as a pupil or a teacher – as one teacher tries to cover climate change issues, while his Head of Department constantly cuts him off, asserts all the soul crushing routinism of exam targets that are geared to the needs of a mode of society whose time has gone; that had teachers and students laughing aloud in uncomfortable recognition.

At the doors of the DFE the security people seem equally bewildered about what all this is about. They look quite threatened by this gathering of very peaceful people. At one point a boy of about 10 volunteers to take copies of the lobby letter, calling for climate change to be treated as the emergency it is and overprinted with children’s hands in poster paint, in to Minister Damien Hinds; and the bouncers – who have formed a line across the door – won’t let him in or take the letters saying that the Minister isn’t at work in the building. A few surprised calls of “where is he?”, “keep it for him” and “put them in his pigeon hole” persuade them to take the letters off his hands.

Walking away afterwards and Parliament Square is extraordinarily quiet. Hundreds of black cabs – several of them pink – are arrayed all round the square and a way up Whitehall in each direction in a protest against the clean air zone. Save our exhaust fumes. With nothing except pedestrians and bikes able to move – they just prove how peaceful, clam and pleasant the streets are when their vehicles aren’t moving through them.

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