The leader of the Anglican church in Australia has backed a decision by a secondary school to bar its male pupils from bringing their boyfriends to the annual formal dance.

A handful of Year 12 (Sixth Form) students at Anglican Grammar School in Brisbane had expressed their desire to bring their gay partners to the end of year ball.

The headmaster said he was open to discussion, but that the purpose of the event has traditionally been to allow interaction between young men and young women and the current school policy therefore only permits boys to take a female partner.

The Most Revd Phillip Aspinall is president of the school’s council, Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane and primate of the Australian church.

He told ABC Radio:

“I have no personal objection to a school deciding to allow boys to take friends who are boys or girls to take friends who are girls to school formals.

“But I understand in this particular instance the school has decided that its approach is to emphasise the interaction of young men and young women and providing them with an opportunity to do that in this kind of formal setting.

“And I have no objection to that either. I think that’s a reasonable and legitimate approach.”

Headmaster Jonathan Hensman said that he thinks the policy should be discussed by the school council and urged pupils to make formal representations.

Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh welcomed the press attention the case has generated across Australia.

“Parents will inevitably have strong views, both ways,” she said.

“I’m aware that many teachers and many guidance officers and school support staff face the reality of talking to young people about their sexuality.

“We can’t put our head in the sand on this.

“As young people develop from their early teenage years through to young adulthood the question of sexuality will emerge and it will arise.”