School forced to apologise after pupils told to write suicide notes for English homework

Children at Tallis School in southeast London were given the task as part of their studies on Shakespeare's Macbeth play

Rachael Pells
Education Correspondent
Saturday 24 June 2017 11:23

A school in London has come under fire after telling 60 teenage pupils to write suicide notes during an English class assignment.

The task was given as part of the year group’s studies on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which Lady Macbeth dies “by self and violent hands”. Children were asked to imagine Lady Macbeth's thoughts in her suicidal state.

Senior staff at Thomas Tallis School in Kidbrooke apologised for upsetting students, some of whom are said to have friends who have taken their own lives.

One mother said three of her daughter’s friends had killed themselves, and that her daughter was “very distressed” after being asked to write the note.

She said she complained to the school as soon as her daughter told her about the task.

“On what universe was it ever a good idea to ask a group of teenagers to write suicide notes?” she said to local newspaper News Shopper.

“At least two classes have done this assignment. My daughter is very outspoken but there are other kids not as vocal who might be suffering from depression.”

Another said: “It’s fine for children to learn Shakespeare, but it is certainly not fine to get them to write suicide notes. Whoever came up with this needs to go back to teacher training college.”

Tallis School headteacher, Carolyn Roberts, said “action had been taken” and that similar projects would not happen again.

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

“We appreciate that the exercise was upsetting to the family and have discussed the subject matter and approach with teaching staff.

“I met with the parent last week and apologised wholeheartedly on behalf of the school.”

* This article has been updated to make clear that the children were not asked to write their own suicide notes (ie as themselves) but to write a note by imagining the thoughts and feelings of Lady Macbeth in her suicidal state. 26/6/17

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