- Gillian Keegan expressed ‘deep concern’ about the demonstrations in post on X
The Education Secretary says she is ‘deeply concerned’ about children taking part in pro-Palestinian demonstrations during the school day.
Thousands of children skipped lessons yesterday to take part in ‘School Strike for Palestine’ rallies in London, Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow and Luton, with pupils calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
In a post on X, Gillian Keegan expressed ‘deep concern’ about the demonstrations, saying they may be exposing schoolchildren to anti-Semitism, and warned that the protests should be treated with the ‘utmost seriousness’.
Ms Keegan said: ‘I’m deeply concerned that some children are attending political protests during the school day – even more so if they’re taking part in, or being exposed to, anti-Semitic chants. This should be treated with the utmost seriousness – missing school for activism is unacceptable.’
Arranged with the help of Left-wing campaign group Stop the War Coalition, those wanting to take part in the strike were told to ‘gather a group of dedicated parents/teenagers in your area and create a WhatsApp group’ to promote the protest.
The Education Secretary says she is ‘deeply concerned’ about children taking part in pro-Palestinian demonstrations during the school day (Stock image)
School students and parents protest at the bombing of Palestine and the voting record of local MP Margaret Hodge at Barking Town Hallon Friday
Protesters were encouraged to ‘pick a central location in your area to have a rally’ and ensured they would be put in touch with ‘local activists’.
The Stop the War Coalition website also gave parents advice on how to get away with pupil absences, saying: ‘We’ve been assured by those working in schools that while this would count as an unauthorised absence, a child can have up to four days in a row unauthorised and would need ten in a short amount of time to be fined.’
It also offers a template letter for parents of ‘striking’ children to send to their school’s headteacher.
A video shared on social media showed hundreds of children in school uniform in Redbridge, east London, waving Palestinian flags, holding signs reading ‘ceasefire’ and chanting ‘free, free Palestine’.
In Glasgow, photos showed pupils gathered outside the Royal Concert Hall shouting ‘ceasefire now’ and holding up a large banner which read: ‘Students say: End Israeli apartheid.’ It came as schoolchildren handed in a petition calling for a ceasefire to representatives at Bristol’s City Hall.
The signatures were collected by youngsters who have attended the pro-Palestine demonstrations in the city for the past three weeks.
Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green Party and councillor for Clifton Down ward in the city, told pupils and protesters: ‘Thank you for taking a stand for Palestine and for calling for a ceasefire. The abhorrent situation in Palestine and Israel must end.
‘I know we are all horrified by the Hamas attacks and we all want the immediate release of the hostages. Those atrocities do not in any way justify the level of bombardment of civilians, including many Gazan children, that has shocked the world.’
Tory MP Miriam Cates said ahead of a pupil protest in Bristol this month: ‘Given the increasingly apparent cost to children of missing out on education, it is hugely concerning. It is especially alarming that children are being drawn into a political campaign against Western values.’