1. ITV Report

Thousands skip class across region to march against climate change

Scenes from Brighton Photo:

Thousands of young people from across the Meridian region are skipping class today to protest against climate change.

The rallies include primary and secondary schoolchildren, along with university and college students, who have joined together in places such as Canterbury, Brighton, Southampton and Oxford.

Many have taken to the streets in Brighton

The protests are the first of its kind in our region, with many missing class as part of a national day of action.

Climate change has been described as the 'greatest threat' the planet faces today as young people across the UK call for action.

They hope the walkout will prompt politicians to make the environmental issue a priority.

There were gatherings at Guildhall Square in Southampton

The Youth Strike 4 Climate protests, inspired by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg's solo demonstrations, have been taking place in more than 60 towns and cities across the UK.

  • Watch Rachel Hepworth's report from the west of the region
  • Watch Tom Savvides' report from the east of the region

Some schools have threatened students with truancy proceedings for the walkout, while others have stepped back in support.

MP and spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats on education, Layla Moran, has come out in support of the rallies.

Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion, has also come out in support, addressing young people in Brighton on Friday morning.

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The evidence is really shocking, we have less than 12 years to get off the collision course that we're on, my generation has let you down.

In the last 12 months there's only been one debate on climate change in Parliament. There is a better way forward."

– Caroline Lucas MP, Brighton Pavillion
  • WATCH: Students tell ITV News Meridian why they're choosing to protest today

Government ministers and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) urged students not to skip school.

In a statement, NAHT said it "could not condone" pupils missing lessons to take part in the protests.

And Education Secretary Damian Hinds added: "I want young people to be engaged in key issues affecting them and involving themselves in causes they care about.

"But let me be clear, missing class won't do a thing to help the environment; all they will do is create extra work for teachers."

Energy minister Claire Perry struck a more neutral tone, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme that she would probably have joined the strikes herself if they had happened while she was at school.

"I'm incredibly proud of the young people in the UK who are highly educated about this issue and feel very strongly - quite rightly - that we do need to take action because it's their generation that will bear the consequences," she said.

"I do want to slightly caution that with the more official view that we can't put any more burdens on our superb teachers and teaching staff. I do hope that anyone missing school today does get their work and their homework done."

And Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon openly supported the day of action, taking to Twitter to praise those involved.

"It's a cause for optimism, in an often dark world, that young people are taking a stand on climate change," she wrote.

A second round of strikes is due to be held on March 15.