Headmaster makes history by coming out as gay to students in assembly

Moment headmaster, 41, of £18,000-a-year London private school comes out as ‘happily gay and in a same-sex relationship’ to pupils and staff in online assembly

  • Headteacher Nicholas Hewlett held talk for St Dunstan’s College’s LGBTQ week
  • He told pupils at Catford school he is ‘happily gay and in same sex relationship’  
  • It is thought to be first coming out by a headteacher to their students in history
  • The 41-year-old says he was moved by strength and courage of his own students 

A headteacher at an exclusive private school has made history by coming out as gay and discussing his sexuality in a virtual school assembly on Monday.

Nicholas Hewlett, headteacher at the £18,000-a-year St Dunstan’s College in Catford, told students and staff that he is ‘happily gay and in a same-sex relationship’.

It is thought that the announcement to students by a headteacher is the first of its kind in educational history.

The 41-year-old’s assembly marks the start of the school’s LGBTQ week and the beginning of LGBTQ History Month.

Exploring the school’s history, he told the real-life story of a former teacher at St Dunstan’s who in the 1980s faced criticism for being an openly gay educator.

But he said the school had now ‘moved on to such an extent’ that it now had a headteacher who was openly gay.

Announcing his sexuality to the students, he said: ‘(Now) I, as the headmaster, can be comfortable to share with you today that I am happily gay and in a same sex relationship.’

Nicholas Hewlett (left), who announced he was gay to his students on Monday, with his husband Alberic Elsom (right)

Headmaster Nicholas Hewlett (pictured) told students and staff at St Dunstan’s College, Catford that he was gay and happily married

He later urged pupils to ‘have the courage to be true to yourself’ and ‘allow others to be true to themselves also’, before adding ‘it’s okay not to know who you are just yet’.

And he urged to pupils that sexuality should ‘never ever be seen as a barrier to success’.

Mr Hewlett had earlier in the assembly told the story Martin Preston, a former pupil turned teacher at St Dunstan’s – where he taught religious education and Russian between 1960 and 1980. 

He said Mr Preston, who was an a baptist minister and Anglican priest, had been ‘outed for his sexuality’ by the then-editor of magazine Private Eye.

But he said that pupils ‘rallied around’ revered Mr Preston and supported him, a move he said went ‘against the culture norms of the time’ and, he added, apparently against the views of the then-headmaster.

Mr Hewlett said Mr Martin, who passed away last month aged 89, would ‘have been delighted’ that it was LGBTQ week at the school. 

‘And that these days St Dunstan’s being gay or having any form or having any form of different sexual identity does not  carry with it the same stigma, need for such attention, the need for controversy,’ Mr Hewlett added.

The headteacher said he was inspired to make the speech after being impressed with a student’s courage in discussing their own sexuality which left him feeling determined to be honest about his situation. 

Ahead of today’s announcement, Mr Hewlett told the Times: ‘My only regret is not doing it earlier, because seven years of children will have gone through the school without the benefit of a role model.

‘The message is simply have the courage to be true to yourself.

‘There will be kids who are struggling with their own sexuality and who would benefit from knowing that you can be happy and gay, and I have a privileged position to show them that.

‘I felt that I owed it to the pupils to be open and courageous too. I am inspired by them.’ 

The headteacher, who now leads St Dunstan’s College in Catford (pictured), says he was inspired by his own students’ courage and strength and his only regret is not doing it sooner

Announcing his sexuality to the students, he said: ‘(Now) I, as the headmaster, can be comfortable to share with you today that I am happily gay and in a same sex relationship.’

The headteacher said when he first became a teacher, he was warned that his sexuality would be a barrier to a successful career.

But he said society had come a long way since he was a student in the 1990s.

He added: ’15 years ago, I was told by a senior colleague in the school I was then working in that, as an openly gay man, it would be virtually impossible for me to become a headmaster.’

He said he hopes the announcement will be met with a positive reaction by students at the school who he hopes may cheer or wave rainbow flags in support. 

Addressing his decision to go public, the headmaster wrote on Twitter: ‘If it can help just one young person feel more comfortable in their skin, it is surely an act worth doing.’

The Department for Education told the Times: ‘We trust teachers and school leaders to make decisions about what’s appropriate to discuss with pupils.

‘By the end of secondary education, all pupils should receive teaching on LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] relationships. Schools are free to determine how they do this.’

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