Published: 18:30, 22 September 2021
| Updated: 20:09, 22 September 2021
A gifted teenager who tragically took his own life was under "immense pressure" to keep up with school work, his mother claims.
An inquest into his death was told the pandemic lockdown had affected the teenager's mental health and that he had confided in friends that he was thinking of taking his own life.
But today his mother, Alison Webb, says the root cause of his depression was his struggle to deal with a "gruelling" school timetable after returning to class last September following the first lockdown.
"The social media evidence we discovered after Lucas’s death showed he was openly discussing his high stress levels and impacted mental health within his friendship group," she said.
"This stress was caused by the immense academic pressures put on him within weeks of starting sixth form at the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys.
"One particular further maths homework was so large it exceeded the upload limit of Google Classroom."
Mrs Webb says that by the end of September Lucas confessed to friends that he was "emotionally unstable and seriously depressed".
"He said he had dropped all his hobbies and stopped going out with his friends at weekends just so he could complete his studies," she said.
"Despite his exemplary academic record, he was starting to doubt his ability to keep up with the work for the first time ever.
"The online records show others in his wider friendship group were also suffering much the same after a prolonged period of no [face-to-face] education due to the first pandemic lockdown."
Mrs Webb says in early November Lucas reached out to close friends to talk about his mental health and expressed suicidal thoughts.
"Lucas told his friends that he didn’t want to worry us, his parents," she said.
"He didn’t want our impression of him to change and that, while he knew we wouldn’t be angry for asking for help, he didn’t want to put that burden upon us."
On November 16, Lucas and a group of friends from school went to a nearby chalk pit, where one of them had claimed he would jump to his death.
Nothing occurred and a teacher who rushed to the scene after being alerted said the boys were "jovial" and claimed they were "just joking".
A safeguarding teacher spoke to the boy, who was accompanied by Lucas, and in turn informed the boy's parents.
The incident was noted on Lucas's school record but his parents were not informed.
“We strongly believe that if something is considered sufficiently serious to have your child’s record updated, then parents should be made aware," Mrs Webb said.
“We had absolutely no idea that this was going on.
“We can’t change that now but I fear that if something like that happens to another child, the parents won’t necessarily find out until it’s too late, and that’s not good enough.
"Lucas was not offered any support from the school and certainly not any of the therapy he said he had been expecting."
Towards the end of November, Lucas was forced to self-isolate at home on two consecutive occasions as one of his classmates had tested positive for Covid.
Mrs Webb says he started handing work in late "for the first time in his school life".
"Despite this drastic change in habit, we were not informed," she said.
"Overwhelmed with the increasing amount of work he was required to do, he felt that he had lost his academic footing and would never be able to recover.
"Highly stressed, he spent his last week alive trying to catch up on work, sitting numerous online tests and handing in as much homework as possible."
The Langton's head of safeguarding, Stefan Peto, said the school had no concerns about Lucas, who had not reported any issues to staff.
But he accepted that a review after his death had concluded that the parents of all of the boys who went to the chalk pit should have been alerted to the incident.
Solicitor Nicholas Chapman, representing the school, told the coroner it took its safeguarding responsibilities very seriously.
He said its policies were based on a recognised externally-sourced template which was regularly updated.
"All staff are required to read and understand it, " he said.
He believed the school had responded appropriately to the chalk pit incident, but it recognised a need to improve.
He added: "It is not possible to write all permutations into school policy. It must be decided on a fact-based basis or may be unrealistic or counter-productive, if trying to capture every risk."
Simon Langton head teacher Ken Moffat said after the inquest: "The school has felt deeply the tragic death of Lucas.
"He was a highly gifted young man with a bright future.
"We had no idea or indication that his thoughts had taken such a dark turn and significant periods of enforced self-isolation kept him away from school during the autumn and winter.
"He is missed by the whole school community."
The school has been asked for a further comment on the concerns raised by Mrs Webb.
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