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Headteacher to come out as gay to pupils in online video message

Written by on 31/01/2021

A headteacher from a leading private school is about to make education history by coming out as gay to pupils in an online video.

Nick Hewlett, from St Dunstan’s College in Catford, south London, is thought to be the first head in the UK to open up about his sexuality in this way.

He will deliver a pre-recorded video message to over 700 students on Monday, detailing how he is “happily married and gay”.

The 41-year-old married his husband in a civil ceremony in 2014. He was inspired to open up after hearing a student say how comfortable he was with his sexuality.

St Dunstan's headteacher Nick Hewlett (L) and his husband Alberic Elsom
Image: Mr Hewlett says he feels ‘proud’ to be able to speak out openly

“I suddenly thought about my own situation and my own identity,” he told Sky News, “and I thought, hang on a minute, this is ridiculous.

“Here I am, a happily married gay man, and alright some students might know this, but the vast majority probably don’t, why wouldn’t I share it with them, why wouldn’t I be open about that?

“I felt strongly it could well help some students.”

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After considering the matter and discussing it at home, Mr Hewlett decided to also name his husband, Alberic Elsom, director of music at Whitgift School in Croydon.

He says he feels “proud” to be able to speak out openly within the education sector after growing up in the nineties, which he describes as being “very challenging”.

Mr Hewlett suspects there are “so few openly gay heads” because they were “conditioned by the upbringing and environment in schools in the nineties”.

“As a society we have moved on a lot,” he said, “the difference is astronomic in terms of where we were and where we are now.

“But we haven’t moved on that much because this is still news… the very fact this is news tells you a story.”

He describes feeling “hugely emotive” about the online message he will be sending to pupils: “I feel strongly that if the students feel they can be courageous about it then why shouldn’t I too?”

Mr Hewlett also thinks he would have found it “a real challenge” opening up “on stage” instead of remotely – and “talking about something very personal…something that has been a real journey”.

He talks about the need to handle identity in children “very carefully”, adding: “One thing I do sometimes get concerned about is this idea of pigeonholing children too early into a certain sexual identity.

“The sort of fluid nature of decision making when it comes to identity is a very important component of certainly of what I stand for and what we all stand for at St Dunstan’s.”

St Dunstan's headteacher Nick Hewlett (L) and his husband Alberic Elsom
Image: The headteacher discussed the need to handle identity in children ‘very carefully’

Sue Sanders, chair of Schools Out UK, came out as gay back in the 1960s as a drama teacher.

She said she felt at the time it was “crucial” and says it is really important that teachers feel safe to open up to students in this way. She says some teachers still feel unable to be open about their sexuality.

“My guess is that students kind of have a sense if teachers are LGBT,” she said, “and if they’re not out then it gives a really problematic message out that it’s not safe or there’s something wrong with it.

“If you’re going to be an effective school you are going to make it safe for everybody, and that means you make it safe for the teachers to be who they are.

“I think the fear of consequences is still definitely still there. Some schools do brilliantly and teachers feel safe to be out, and there are others that give very powerful messages to their staff that they don’t want them out.

“That’s a real problem and technically is illegal.”

 Sky News

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