LAST week’s #FridaysForFuture protest put schools in a really difficult position. I don’t know of any head, or any teacher for that matter, who doesn’t care about the changes that humankind is inflicting on the environment and global climate; there are very few among us who are not shocked when we hear of the rate of disappearance of species from the planet due to habitat loss. So there is considerable support for Greta Thunberg’s campaign, understanding of the hugely important issues at stake and empathy with the movement’s aims.

But – and it is a considerable but – schools (and parents) have a duty to ensure that youngsters are educated. Heads have little discretion to ‘turn a blind eye’ as one of my well-meaning correspondents put it. I cannot simply ignore the request for young people to be absent for a part of every Friday from school, and my reasons for non-compliance have a firm educational and legal basis rather than enlisting more dubious or tenuous reasons. I have a job to do with clear responsibilities and accountability; I cannot just turn my back and pretend that it’s not happening, nor do I want to. I would much rather give my full support to an initiative that refocuses our political class away from the current Brexit-obsessed infighting and gets them engaged with longer-term, more fundamental issues but doesn’t carry an educational price tag.

There is absolutely no doubt that our boys care, and care passionately too. There were some of the BWS Sixth Form present at Friday’s demonstration outside the Guildhall which I entirely expected. BWS boys have plenty of opportunities to engage with environmental issues during the course of the school day both inside and outside the curriculum. Do we give them enough information and chances for informed debate? Probably not, but it is not for lack of trying. In lessons, Sciences and Geography in particular and elsewhere we cover pollution, environmental destruction, climate change, species loss, habitat destruction, waste management and global stewardship. We have significant numbers of visiting speakers who frequently touch on environmental issues, assemblies also often look at matters relating to human impact on our planet.

The boys get plenty of chances to engage with politicians and our debating and public speaking teams get stuck into political issues without fear or favour, irrespective of the age group concerned. Recycling is a fact of life at the request of the school councils. Life in school has a strong environmental dimension; we have spent considerable sums on solar panels, improving the energy efficiency of our lighting and insulation. All of our new buildings (of which there are quite a few) meet stringent energy regulations as you would expect.

In short we have done a lot, but like everyone else, we can always do more.