Column by the leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Toby Savage.

As readers of this column will know, the Council’s number one priority is to improve school standards. This is why we continue to lobby for fairer funding, have invested a record £78million into building new schools and improving existing buildings and are working with schools on how we can improve outcomes for the children in their classrooms.

But while this all is pushing our schools in the right direction, it is all for nothing if children are not attending school.

On Friday, many children are being encouraged to walk out of lessons “on strike” to join the climate change protest in Bristol. As the Cabinet Member for Climate Change, my attitude towards young people fighting for a better future is nothing less than positive. They are the next generation and should have their voices heard on such an important topic. But it should not be trading one future for another.

I am delighted that Greta Thunberg, who has done so much for raising the profile of climate action despite her age, is visiting our area, but I take issue with an event being held on a school day with so many children being encouraged to give up a day of their education. There have been other opportunities for campaigning, we have just had half term and a weekend is almost upon us, so to encourage children to be out of school when exam season is not far away isn’t in their best interest.

The voices of young people have been heard with the Council having declared a Climate Emergency and investing significantly to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, so another event will not make a difference, but will have a negative impact on their education.

I make no apologies for reminding young people their education must come first because it is a highly educated population that will drive the innovation we need to protect our planet for future generations.