Pupils told to write ‘sui­cide notes’ in class on Mac­beth

Daily Mail - - Camilla: Her Story - By James Tozer j.tozer@dai­ly­mail.co.uk

PAR­ENTS re­acted in hor­ror af­ter their chil­dren were told to write sui­cide notes as part of a class project on Mac­beth.

More than 60 pupils were asked to write a sui­cide note to their loved ones af­ter study­ing the Shake­speare tragedy.

The Year 8 pupils – aged 12 or 13 – were told to imag­ine what Lady Mac­beth would have writ­ten to her mur­der­ous hus­band be­fore com­mit­ting sui­cide ‘ by self and vi­o­lent hands’ af­ter be­com­ing con­sumed by guilt over King Dun­can’s death.

Par­ents said their chil­dren were ‘very dis­tressed’ by the project, and branded it ‘in­sen­si­tive’ at a time when sui­cide is the big­gest cause of death in young peo­ple.

The school has apol­o­gised and promised that the as­sign­ment will not be set again.

While Lady Mac­beth’s death takes place off-stage in the play, and there is no sui­cide note, the play makes clear that she kills her­self while racked with guilt at goad­ing her hus­band into killing King Dun­can.

In one of the best-known scenes, Lady Mac­beth is seen sleep­walk­ing and be­moan­ing ‘ the smell of the blood’ on her hands.

‘All the per­fumes of Ara­bia will not sweeten this lit­tle hand,’ she says.

Over­hear­ing her, a doctor tells her gen­tle­woman to take away any­thing with which she could use to harm her­self. Mac­beth is given the news that his wife is dead mo­ments be­fore the cli­mac­tic bat­tle.

Pupils at the 1,700-pupil Thomas Tal­lis School in Kid­brooke, southeast London, were asked to write the sui­cide notes in an English class af­ter study­ing the play.

They are un­der­stood to have been asked by a sup­ply teacher to imag­ine how Lady Mac­beth would have ex­plained her de­ci­sion to take her own life.

The ex­er­cise – and sim­i­lar tasks fo­cused on Romeo’s sui­cide in Romeo and Juliet – is un­der­stood to have fea­tured in GCSE course­work in pre­vi­ous years.

But a girl in the class who had three friends who com­mit­ted sui­cide told the teacher she was up­set by the as­sign­ment. Her mother told the News Shop­per news­pa­per: ‘They were do­ing Mac­beth in English (and) the as­sign­ment they were be­ing given was writ­ing a sui­cide let­ter.

‘My daugh­ter has had per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence with peo­ple her age com­mit­ting sui­cide. On what uni­verse was it ever, un­der any sit­u­a­tion, a good idea to ask a group of teenagers to write sui­cide notes?

‘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

‘Emo­tional well-be­ing’

from de­pres­sion.’ An­other par­ent, who did not want to be named, 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.’

Head teacher Carolyn Roberts said: ‘The ex­er­cise is a well-known method for get­ting stu­dents to un­der­stand this dra­matic twist in the play. I apol­o­gise whole­heart­edly on be­half of the school.

‘We care deeply about the emo­tional well-be­ing of our stu­dents and of course wish no dis­tress to be caused to any of our stu­dents.

Of­sted in­spec­tors rated the school good and well led, with pupils’ per­for­mance in English lessons ‘out­stand­ing’.

The Of­fice for Na­tional Statis­tics said 231 chil­dren com­mit­ted sui­cide in 2015, the high­est fig­ure for 14 years.

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