The Department for Education has criticised the former chairman of a headteachers association, after he described a north London school’s decision to set up an LGBT club as “macabre”.

In a letter published by The Times on 17 May, Patrick Tobin, former chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), criticised Highgate School in north London, which is a member of HMC, for launching an LGBT club.

He said: “It is macabre that, when society is unprecedentedly alert to paedophilia, a school should be encouraging its teachers to discuss with pupils their own and their pupils’ sexuality.”

Mr Tobin said it was a “myth” that people can be born gay. He also attacked the “gay lobby” and suggested homophobic bullying in schools was because of “too much media coverage”.

Gay rights charity Stonewall dismissed the suggestion and defended Highgate School saying it should be “commended” for having an LGBT club.

International Development Minister and Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, whose Hornsey and Wood Green constituency includes Highgate School, branded Mr Tobin’s remarks “ludicrous and offensive”.

Mr Tobin also called on the Department for Education to “ensure that Highgate School will be the last school to have its own Gay and Lesbian Club.”

In response, a Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s entirely up to schools what clubs they operate. Any suggestion that the DfE can or should ban clubs of this kind is completely wrong.”

Mr Tobin spent more than 17 years as a headmaster and principal at Prior Park College in Bath and at Erskine Stewart’s Melville School in Edinburgh.

He recently retired as an administrator at HMC and was responsible for helping to organise scholarships for over 400 students from Central & Eastern Europe at UK boarding schools.

However, he remains an honorary associate and member of the organisation.

HMC told PinkNews.co.uk: “These are the personal views of Patrick Tobin and in no way reflect the views of HMC.”