Nurseries must play their part in challenging homophobia from an early age amongst pupils, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has warned.

The NUT reacted to The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) consultation from the Department for Education and Skills on policies regarding pre-school children up to 5 years old.

The report said: “By five years old many children have already internalised gender-role expectations, through the process of socialisation. Early years education, amongst other cultural and social factors, plays an important role in young children’s socialisation.

“Research shows that children as young as five begin to display disapproval of peers’ role-inconsistent behaviours and are self-critical when judging how they would feel if they were playing with role-inconsistent toys. Young children monitor their behaviour against gender stereotypes, feeling pride on performing gender role-consistent behaviour.

“In the case of homophobia, the use of the word ‘gay’ is prevalent in primary schools and young boys who are perceived to not conform to masculine stereotypes are at risk of bullying, isolation and social exclusion.

“It is too late to wait until primary school to challenge prejudice and intolerant abusive language. The EYFS curriculum needs to alert early years teachers to their responsibilities to challenge gender stereotypes and to challenge language that is negative or prejudiced.”

The document also called for pre school children to be made aware of different family structures such as civil partnerships, gay parents or grandparents, adoptive parents and guardians, “Many gay parents do not ‘come out’ to their nursery schools because they fear their children will be bullied as a result of the sexual orientation of their parents. Now that civil partnerships are legal, nursery settings need to use the curriculum to educate children about all types of family and to promote respect and understanding.

“Increasingly there are resources such as reading books available for nursery settings which give positive examples of diversity.”

Last week gay charity Stonewall produced a DVD entitled Spell It Out to be distributed to teachers in all London’s secondary schools, as part of its campaign to combat homophobic bullying.

The Guardian recently reported that Stonewall had won a government tender to produce guidance on tackling homophobic bullying in all schools.