Thousands of primary school aged children have been labelled as homophobic by their teachers in the past year, information released under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act has revealed.

The Manifesto Club requested the information after media reports last year of children’s permanent educational records including references to alleged homophobic bullying.

The FOI reveals that 20,400 primary school children were labelled as homophobic or racist during the past academic year, the youngest child being just four years old.

One alleged homophobic incident at a school in the London borough of Barnet showed that two year four children (aged eight or nine) argued over an eraser and called each other “gay” and “lesbian”.

More than one in every hundred primary school pupils in Leeds and Birmingham was reported for hate speech. Some local authorities even recorded incidents with children at nursery schools.

“There’s no doubting that children say some really nasty and horrible things, but this approach is squeezing the meaning out of childhood,” Adrian Hart of the Manifesto Club told the Sunday Times. “Children are seldom, if ever, homophobic or racist in the way this approach imagines. Children simply access words they hear around them and re-deploy them, often without understanding their meaning.”