Catch-22 stops me informing pupils I am gay

18th February 2011 at 00:00

The suggestion that homophobic attitudes persist because of teachers' failures to address pupils' abusive language is undoubtedly true ("Are schools still turning a blind eye to homophobia?", TES Magazine, 11 February).

The key issue is to do with representation and "out" gay people are massively under-represented in the country's staffrooms. I have been teaching for 14 years across five schools and have yet to work with a teacher who is open about his or her homosexuality with pupils. Pupils, therefore, form their opinions about gay people based on hearsay and gossip rather than on their own experiences.

When I finally summoned up the courage to be "out" with my colleagues, I was enormously relieved that it did not seem to alter their attitudes towards me. I would also like to be open about my sexuality with those I teach, to show my support and solidarity for gay pupils who are going through a really difficult time in their lives.

I fear, however, that my gesture would be misinterpreted and that pupils would question my intentions towards them. If I lose the trust of my pupils, then I jeopardise my ability to perform all my other academic and pastoral duties while placing myself in an invidious and vulnerable position. And so the catch-22 continues ...

Alexander Smith, Secondary head of English, Surrey.

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