Stoke & Staffordshire

Stoke Discovery Academy school sorry for 'suicide note'

Goodbye letter
Wesley said the pupils were asked to imagine they had a terminal illness and only a few hours to live

A Staffordshire school has apologised after a 14-year-old boy was asked to write a letter that his mother thought was a suicide note.

Wesley Walker, 14, of Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, wrote the letter, which makes reference to his funeral, as part of a creative writing exercise.

His mother Vicki said: "I felt I was going to find him hanging from his bed, I found it sick."

The Discovery Academy has apologised for causing any "distress".

Headteacher Rob Ridout said: "It was never the intention of the exercise to cause distress, in fact it was the total opposite of that. We apologise for what happened."

'Please be strong'

Wesley said pupils were told to write a letter as if they had a terminal illness and only had a few hours to live.

In it, he wrote: "I want you to remember the fun times and the happy times, at my funeral make everyone were [sic] bright colours to remember my personality.

"I know I have been a pain at the best of times but I'm with Nan and Grandad now so I love you and goodbye."

He ends the letter by saying "please be strong for me" and signs off with six kisses and a heart.

Wesley said: "It felt normal because it was a lesson where we do creative writing."

Mrs Walker said: "He handed it to me one evening and then just went upstairs to bed.

"I really felt like I was going to find him hanging from his bed and maybe he felt he couldn't take any more.

Wesley (right) and the rest of his family at Christmas last year

"I spoke to him and he said it was something they were asked to do at school, I felt it to be really sick.

"I just don't think schools should be asking children to write things like this especially when it can be seen as a suicide note, I don't agree with it."

'Express their feelings'

Mr Ridout said the exercise was part of an "expressive art" lesson.

He confirmed Wesley showed the letter to a teacher and that pupils were told to take them home.

He said: "The exercise was to enable young people to express emotions and share things with loved ones that they never normally say.

"They were asked to imagine what they would say if they had a short time left and many pupils and their families found it an encouraging and positive experience.

"It's unfortunate that the context of this exercise wasn't explained to Wesley's parents, and we'll look at the way exercises like this are communicated to our students in the future."

Mike Hymans, from the Division of Educational Child Psychologists, said the social and emotional literacy curriculum included a range of activities similar to the letter-writing exercise.

He said: "It's important that children and young people have an opportunity to share and express their feelings.

"The issue here is perhaps that the parents were unaware of the activity so perhaps it's about direct communication and making sure that emotional literacy is discussed with parents."

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