An Australian school has been criticised for dropping the word ‘gay’ from a children’s song.

Garry Martin, the head of Lepage Primary in Melbourne, said that he replaced the word with ‘fun’ to avoid children rolling around on the floor in “fits of laughter”.

After Australian media reported the story, he said he received angry emails from the public.

The song, which dates from the 1930s, is titled ‘Kookaburra Sits in an Old Gum Tree’. The first verse usually goes: “Laugh, kookaburra, laugh, kookaburra, gay your life must be”.

Mr Martin said he did not mean to cause offence and added that in hindsight, he should have explained to children that the word also meant ‘happy’.

He told Reuters that he changed the word as a “behaviour management strategy” for the seven and eight-year-old children to “stop them giggling”.

“I possibly should have stuck with the original and explained that in a tender, caring way,” he added.

The song was written by music teacher Marion Sinclair in 1932 for a Guides competition and the publishing rights are now owned by Larrikin Music.