A SCHOOL has apologised after GCSE pupils were asked to pen a pretend suicide note during a lesson.

A class of Year 10 English students were set the task at Cheney School in Headington, as part of their studies of An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley.

The 1945 play is a GCSE text, and the plot begins after the character Eva Smith dies in what appears to be a suicide.

One pupil's mother, who asked not to be named, said she felt 'uncomfortable and uneasy' when she heard about the exercise.

The assignment asked pupils to 'imagine you are a young woman in 1912, writing a suicide letter to those who care about you.'

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She told the BBC she was 'genuinely shocked,' adding: "I feel it could be done well to raise awareness of teen mental health and suicide, but this was a massive fail.

"It is a tumultuous time for them as teenagers."

The woman wrote a letter to Cheney's head of English to complain.

In a statement, the school said it was 'very sorry for any distress caused'.

A Cheney spokesperson said: "We are aware that a number of our Year 10 students were addressing the topic of suicide as part of a wider topic on social responsibility in the set GCSE text 'An Inspector Calls'.

"This topic was delivered sensitively with a focus on the events leading up to Eva Smith's death, rather than the death itself.

"During all the lessons students were advised that, if they found the topic of suicide distressing, they could excuse themselves from the lesson."

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Following a review, the writing task has since been reviewed and amended. 

The school's spokesperson added: "As most people will understand, school curriculums have to address many difficult issues such as mental health and suicide, which we try to do sympathetically.

"We are very sorry for any distress caused to any of our school community and will always look to reflect on our teaching and learning practice to make improvements."

Several people have defended the school and the task that was set.

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One Oxford Mail reader, commenting on this article, said: "There is nothing shameful about suicide. We need to talk about it more, loads of kids have mental health struggles and if this made even one feel more able to talk to someone, then that would have huge value.

"The whole text centres around the suicide and the differing viewpoints on it. To understand the play you have to understand why Eva would be suicidal. Better something engaging like this then the standard "Discuss..." essay.

"Anyone [who] thinks writing a suicide note as an academic task will actually make someone suicidal is patently ridiculous."