“Dear mum, don”t cry but I”m dying”: Fury over school”s creative writing assignment that left a mother distraughtWesley Walker, 14, told to write “expressive” note in creative writing classHis parents brand exercise “sick” and “inappropriate”
The words in her son’s homework left Vicki Walker numb with shock.
In a letter which began ‘Dear mum’, Wesley, 14, assured her he loved her, made a request for bright colours at his funeral, and listed who should inherit his most prized possessions.
Horrified, she ran to his bedroom praying he had not taken his own life.
Wesley Walker, with the emotional goodbye note, pictured with his mother Vicki
In fact, Wesley was sleeping soundly in bed – and the death note turned out to be the result of a creative writing assignment set by his teachers.
Last night his parents demanded an apology from the school, furious that teachers could have set such a piece of work without informing them. But while the Discovery Academy in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, apologised, staff insist the task was justified as an exercise in ‘expressive art’ and an opportunity for pupils to tell their mothers that they love them.
The school said it would ‘review how we communicate to parents in the future’.
Mrs Walker, 42, and her husband Mark described the horrifying moment they read the note at their home in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent and thought their son might be about to commit suicide. Mr Walker, 52, a warehouse worker, said: ‘Wesley came down before going to bed and handed his mum this piece of paper.
Creative note: Wesley Walker, 14, was asked to write a letter as if he only had a few days left to live
When Vicki read the note written by her son, pictured, she thought he was going to take his own life
‘He said goodnight and then off he went back upstairs to bed.
‘Vicki read it – and the colour just drained from her face. She just froze stiff and handed me this paper with her hands shaking.
‘She burst into his bedroom and expected to see him hanging there – she was horrified. The poor lad almost jumped out of his skin. It really has shaken us up.’ Wesley was set the task last month in his Expressive Arts class, a subject – also offered at GCSE – which aims to ‘develop pupils’ creativity and imagination’.
“Distressing”: Wesley wrote in his creative writing exercise that he was “writing to say goodbye”
Children were asked to imagine they had a terminal illness and express thanks to loved ones. Wesley said: ‘I just thought it was like any other piece of work. I just got on with it.’
In the letter, which is littered with spelling errors, he asked family and friends to wear bright colours at his funeral and apologised for being ‘a pain’ at times. ‘I don’t want you to be sad,’ it said. ‘I’m with Nan and Grandad now so I love you and goodbye.’
Pupils were then told to take the letters home but no warning was given to parents about the notes.
Creative: The Discovery Academy in Stoke-on-Trent apologised for any distress caused by the exercise, but claimed many parents had seen it as “valuable”
‘I couldn’t believe the school did not warn us they were doing such a sick exercise,’ Mr Walker said. ‘They could have written something on top of the work.’ He added that the assignment could have been harmful to vulnerable teens. ‘It could give some kids the wrong ideas,’ he said. Mrs Walker, a teaching assistant, added: ‘Wesley is a lively boy and to see this made me think there was something seriously wrong.’
Last night the school said many parents and pupils found the exercise ‘valuable’, adding that it was in line with the national curriculum.
A spokesman said: ‘The purpose was to enable young people to explore their feelings and emotions and celebrate the many good things with their loved ones that are usually left unsaid.’