SEXUAL harassment and assault, violence and bullying against girls, and casual misogyny are all blighting Scottish schools, according to the country's leading teachers' union.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) is now to issue new guidance for teachers on how to address growing concerns about the prevalence of sexism in schools.

The EIS will this week send out its new teachers' guide, Getting it Right for Girls, in response to research in which teachers reported witnessing girls being "pushed, grabbed and groped", and being subject to sexist – and sometimes graphic – verbal abuse.

Staff claimed girls and young women were also objectified on the basis of their looks, and that the attitudes of some boys towards both female staff and pupils could be "dismissive and contemptuous".

The guide to tackling misogyny recommends that nurseries, primary and secondary schools, as well as further and higher educational institutions need to develop policies that specifically addresses gender equality and violence against women, and detail strategies to challenge it.

Suggestions include school assemblies on the issue, cross curricular work themed around violence against women, as well as regular and open discussion with pupils on topics including derogatory language and pornography.

The union is calling on the Scottish Government to show leadership and put gender firmly back on the educational agenda, claiming that due to the success of high profile of female politicians, there has been a misguided sense of sexism having been "solved".

It comes as a growing body of evidence suggests that girls – despite holding on to a marginal lead in attainment levels – are experiencing growing levels of violence in school.

According to a YouGov poll one in three girls had been groped, while shocking statistics from England and Wales released under an FOI last year showed more than 5,500 alleged sex crimes in UK schools were reported to police in the last three years, including more than 600 rapes.

Jenny Kemp, national education and equality officer for the EIS, said: "Some of the casual misogyny that we found was really quite shocking. We are taking steps to stamp out racist language but sexist language has become quite normal. We found that many girls were not pushing back against misogyny - there was an expectation of being harassed, groped and grabbed.

"There has been a feeling that we have reached sexual equality and perhaps that means it has fallen off the agenda. It is time to put it firmly back there."

There was a role for Education Scotland, the General Teaching Council and for the Scottish Government to do more, she added.

Caroline Yates, an EIS Equality Rep and teacher at Edinbarnet Primary School in West Dunbarton, said that misogyny, as well as gender stereotyping, was evident in classes of 10-12 year olds.

"Even at this age I pick up a sense that boys feel entitled in a way that girls feel less so," she said.

Gender stereotyping meant that talented girls were not allowed to play football within boys teams though no girls one existed, she added, and the large concrete area of the playground was used almost exclusively by boys for games.

She also claimed that she had seen boys kicking their mothers when called in to speak to teachers about their behaviour. "When this was challenged by staff, mothers said, "he does that all the time". We sometimes see this attitude carrying across to younger female staff.

"It needs to be addressed in initial teacher training as well as within schools. We need to create a culture of openness and develop training to look at how we narrow the gender divide."

The EIS research is backed up by a recent study by Girlguiding UK which suggested a fifth of girls have experienced unwanted touching or unwanted sexual attention at school.

Katie Horsburgh, 16, a Girlguiding Scotland member who has been campaigning on the issue, said: "Schools should be safe and empowering places for girls to learn and reach their full potential. No girl should ever leave home in the morning fearful of facing harassment in the classroom or being subjected to sexist behaviour and attitudes."

Ceris Aston, information officer for YWCA Scotland, a campaign organisation for young women, said girls reported being cat-called and harassed on the way to school.

Laura Tomson, co-director of Zero Tolerance, which campaigns to stop violence against women, said: "As they go through school, misogynistic attitudes teach girls that they are worth less than boys, that they have fewer rights and limited career choices. Misogyny is not ‘boys being boys’ and it is never ‘just a bit of fun’.

"Those working with children and young people have a particular opportunity to both demonstrate and encourage positive, respectful treatment of women and girls."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said it had produced updated guidance which aimed to help teachers deal with misogyny.

"We want every child and young person in Scotland to develop mutually respectful, responsible and confident relationships with other children, young people and adults," she added.

'In my school sexual harassment wasn't treated as sexual harassment'

IT'S not just the way some boys leer at you, according to Shannon Baird, 17, a former pupil of St Andrew's Academy in Paisley. It's the graphic comments that go along with the leering. "There were places at school where you would not want to walk past on your own," she said.

If the teachers had overheard the comments, the boys would have got reprimanded, she acknowledged. "But it was the girls who would be pulled up by staff for short skirts, which "left little to the imagination".

"Logically you knew it was ridiculous that you should feel in any way like you were "asking for it" but that's how it could feel.

"When I was younger the boys would talk about "slap an a*se Wednesday". The boys did get into trouble but it was not treated as sexual harassment, which it was."

Sex education was limited, one teacher at the Catholic school promoted an "abstinence approach", and to Baird the conservative view of sexuality fed a misogynist culture.

"Girls are expected to be calm and controlled. The girl should be the responsible one, even in things like last day of term pranks" she said. "Boys aren't dumb but if we preach that they act irresponsibly because they can't control themselves some might start to believe it."

A spokesperson for Renfrewshire Council said: "Renfrewshire Council promotes a culture of dignity and respect for all pupils and staff in our schools. Any pupil who is concerned about being harassed or bullied for any reason should get in touch with pastoral support staff."