More than 70 cases of homophobic bullying have been recorded in schools across south-east Wales, but Plaid Cymru equalities spokesperson and Assembly Member (AM) Lindsay Whittle says it could be the tip of the iceberg.

Mr Whittle’s staff submitted a Freedom of Information request to every secondary school in the AM’s south-east region which covers Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen to find how many cases had been recorded by schools over a five-year period.

Most comprehensive schools did not report a single case of homophobic bullying but others said they had taken action, including detention, counselling, group work on homophobia, informing parents while in one incident a school said the police had been involved.

Mr Whittle said: “The survey carried out by Plaid Cymru indicates that many schools have no recorded incidents of homophobic bullying over the past five years. That does make me think whether or not all schools identify homophobic bullying separately from bullying accusations generally. If pupils are called gay, for instance, that should be recorded as homophobic bullying.

“At the other end of the scale schools that have recorded incidents and taken action, such as taking sanctions against pupils, should be commended for dealing with the issues seriously.

“I believe these figures are probably the tip of the iceberg and I urge all schools to treat the issue of homophobic bullying with the seriousness it deserves; record incidents and take the appropriate action when necessary.”

Luke Young, education officer for Stonewall Cymru, said: “Our most recent research, The School Report 2012, shows that over half of all lesbian gay and bisexual (LGB) pupils experience homophobic bullying. With such widespread reports it’s surprising to find such a large number of schools in the area have reported 0 incidents. We know that when schools monitor homophobic incidents and act on the information they have the rate of bullying falls.

“In schools that don’t respond to homophobic bullying when it occurs, gay pupils are much more likely to experience bullying. More than three quarters of gay pupils are bullied in those schools compared to 49% in schools that do respond quickly to incidents.”

A Plaid Cymru investigation last year revealed that most Welsh local authorities had no idea of the extent of homophobic bullying in schools across the nation because incidents were not recorded by them.

On Friday, Education Secretary Michael Gove said more needed to be done by schools in England and Wales and by government to end the use of homophobic language in playgrounds.