COUNCIL chiefs have slammed climate campaigners who are calling on Southampton youngsters to take time off of school to join their protest.

The activists from Extinction Rebellion have urged pupils and students to “show local government they are concerned” about climate change and join them next Friday for a “day of rebellion.”

The group recently staged a “die-in” at the Bargate to show the number of people estimated to die from pollution in Southampton every year.

They also took to Westquay with other green groups in a mass flash-mob to protest against Southampton City Council’s decision not to bring in charges for vehicles entering the city.

Now they have organised a day of protests in Guildhall Square.

Organisers said: “On February 15, young people from all over the UK and Sweden will be striking from school to take a stand for their own future.

“Young people must show local government that they are concerned; we will not sit by as our world is blindly destroyed.

“Take the day off school, college, or university, and join us at 11am for a student-focused demonstration.

“Use your voice! Explain to your head teachers why you are striking. Engage them in conversation. They will appreciate your passion and your knowledge. They will listen.

“Bring banners, food, friends and musical instruments. It will be a fun day with music, dancing, singing, and even the limbo.”

But Cllr James Baillie, a maths teacher at Swanmore College, told Echo it can take pupils a long time to catch up on any missed classes.

He said: “I think it’s completely irresponsible and I’m really uncomfortable with them encouraging pupils to miss school. There are many ways in which their voices can be heard, but I don’t think them missing some of their education is the best way of achieving their goal.

“Climate change is obviously a big issue for us locally, nationally and globally, but it’s not just the day you are off of school, it’s the ripple effect.”

In a letter to head teachers justifying the strike action, Extinction Rebellion said it was immoral to hide the truth from children and youth.

Cllr Steve Leggett, Cabinet Member for Green City, added: “Southampton City Council is committed to raising school attendance. Missing school has a negative impact on children’s learning and is disruptive for teachers as well.

“We’re currently engaging with young people about the environmental issues that we all face today. Many in our community share the council’s determination to ensure air is cleaner across the city, with Southampton leading the way in becoming a clean, green and healthy city.”