60 teenage pupils were given the task of writing suicide notes for homework as part of an assignment studying MacBeth. The students were asked to imagine the thoughts of Lady MacBeth whilst in a suicidal state.
Many of the students knew people who had died by suicide. One mother described her daughter as ‘very distressed’ given that 3 of her friends had died by suicide. She complained the moment she heard about the assignment. “On what universe was it ever a good idea to ask a group of teenagers to write suicide notes?” she asked. “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.”
The school have taken action over the assignment and apologised to pupils and parents whilst promising similar projects would not be happening again.
“A parent contacted us with concerns about a written exercise given to a class during studies of a play by Shakespeare,”said Tallis School headteacher, Carolyn Roberts. 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.”
It is important that children are aware of the issues around mental health and suicide. However giving the task of writing suicide notes for homework is not the wisest method of tackling the issue.