A new scheme promoting gay lifestyles through fairytales aimed a primary-aged children has been criticised by Christian activists.

So far fourteen schools and one local authority are taking part in the No Outsiders programme. It has secured funding of £600,000 from the Economic and Social Research Council.

The scheme is run by Sunderland and Exeter universities and the Institute of Education (IoE) in London.

If successful it is hoped to extend it nationwide.

One of the fairy stories features a prince who turns down three princesses before falling in love with a man.

Others feature two male penguins raising a chick and a girl with two space-travelling mothers.

The push to include books for primary-aged children that encompass same-sex relationships has angered religious groups and re-ignited the debate about Section 28.

“The predictions of those who said the repeal of Section 28 would result in the active promotion of homosexuality in schools are coming true,” Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute told The Guardian.

Section 28, passed in 1988, banned local authorities from promoting homosexuality as a valid lifestyle, after tabloid newspaper outrage at a book which showed a little girl living happily with two gay men.

It was abolished in 2003, and this marks the first attempt to re-introduce gay-friendly books into schools.

Booksellers Waterstones are considering introducing titles like King and King into their stores if the scheme goes nationwide.

It is hoped that teaching children as young as five about the existence of gay relationships might help in tackling the use of words like gay to mean bad or inferior.

In January, research by the National Union of Teachers revealed that the vast majority of their members hear the word gay used pejoratively on a regular basis.

Many felt that sexist and homophobic language was institutionally tolerated. The union is backing the No Outsiders scheme, as is the General Teaching Council.

The scheme’s director, Elizabeth Atkinson, explained its importance:

“My background is in children’s literature and I know how powerful it is in shaping social values and emotional development. What books do not say is as important as what they do,” she told The Guardian.