UK school apologises after outrage on English assignment asking students to pen suicide notes

An English teacher in the United Kingdom asked over 60 teenage students to draft a suicide note for homework as part of a module on Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, sparking outrage and prompting the school to apologise.

 UK school apologises after outrage on English assignment asking students to pen suicide notes

Representational image. CNN-News18

Pupils at Thomas Tallis school, Kidbrooke, London, were asked to pen a final note to their loved ones after reading one of the play's most celebrated scenes where Lady Macbeth takes her own life.

However, the decision caused outrage among parents, some of whom claimed their children had been personally affected by the issue, The Telegraph reported.

Criticising Thomas Tallis for its lack of sensitivity, one mother said her daughter had been told to write the note – despite having lost three friends to suicide.

She was quoted as saying that her daughter had become "very distressed" over the issue, and had told the teacher in question that such material made her feel uncomfortable.

"My daughter has had personal experience with people her age committing suicide," the mother said.

"On what universe was it ever, under any situation, a good idea to ask a group of teenagers to write suicide notes?" she said.

Other parents branded the decision "absolutely disgusting" and "insensitive", with one claiming that the assignment had been ill-conceived given the age of the students involved.

"I can't imagine why a place of education would do something so insensitive, especially as childhood and teenage depression and anxiety is at an all-time high at the moment,” another parent said.

Headmistress Caroyln Roberts said, “A parent contacted us with concerns about a written exercise given to a class during studies of a play by Shakespeare.”

"We appreciate that the exercise was upsetting to the family and have discussed the subject matter and approach with teaching staff,” Roberts said.

"I met the parents last week and apologised wholeheartedly on behalf of the school and reassured them about the actions that have been taken. The parents accepted the apology in a meeting that was friendly and cordial,” she said.

The school further clarified that the said assignment was in acaordance with a well recognised way of familiarising the students with a character.

"The exercise was to write a suicide letter from Lady Macbeth to Macbeth explaining her decision to kill herself. The exercise is a well-known method for getting students to understand this dramatic twist in the play. The teacher who set the exercise is very experienced. Indeed, the exercise has been praised at a recent Ofsted inspection for the progress made by pupils studying the play," a statement issued by the school read.

However, Thomas Tallis offered apologies for the inconvenience this may have caused to the parents and students.

“We care deeply about the emotional wellbeing of our students and of course wish no distress to be caused to any of our students - all we can do is hold discussions and debates on topics such as these in a supportive and sensitive way. Had we been aware of any students who would have found the exercise upsetting then we would of course have taken a different approach. We have listened to the concerns raised by this debate and will not run the exercise again," the school said.

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Updated Date: Jun 27, 2017 10:53:17 IST