LAWS in Scotland banning the taking of illegal sexual images with mobile phones of schoolgirls and female teachers without their consent have failed to provide sufficient protection from male pupils.

Jane Peckham, the national officer for the NASUWT teaching union in Scotland, spoke out about the harassment and abuse that female staff in schools can face. The Sunday Herald has highlight the extreme levels of the offence in recent week in Scottish schools and covered calls for mobile phones to be banned from the classroom as a result. The images are often swapped among boys and posted online.

Peckham said: "Teachers report that the issues of sexualised behaviour and abuse is so rife in schools that its prevalence is almost dismissed as banter now, and senior management sometimes choose to turn a blind eye, accusing teachers of over-reacting if they do report it."

While legislation criminalises the taking of such images - often referred to as 'upskirt' or 'downblouse' - Peckham said these laws were "not making an impact in the way that they should be".

Speaking about the problem at a fringe event at the Scottish Labour conference in Dundee, she said: "There are pupils who are setting up phones and sliding bags under teachers as they go round and then posting all of this."

Peckham added: "In Scotland as you know the law was changed by the Sexual Offences Act in 2009 to include upskirting and downblousing as being illegal. The concern is that even when that is being reported I think there was only 11 cases that ever got to be heard." Hundreds of such images are believed to be taken every day in schools.

Peckham said: "So even though we have protections other nations in the UK don't have, they still are not making an impact in the way that they should be."

Sexual harassment is a "major issue" in schools, she said, with a survey by the union two years ago showing one in six female teachers has suffered abuse in the last two years.

Peckham said: "Teachers and other school staff should be protected by health and safety legislation, but our research is showing employers are failing in their duty to take this seriously."

She continued: "We've done a lot of surveys and we have case work evidence from teachers who have also witnessed young girls being pressurised in to sexualised behaviour, particularly through social media and mobile phones.

"Teachers regularly hear young women referred to as sluts or slags, witness unwanted sexual touching and when they do attempt to tackle this or report, they are quite often faced with disbelief and their concerns are trivialised."

Peckham went on: "There are threats of sexual violence and rape towards teachers online, fake accounts set up where young boys are speaking suggestively about members of staff, a site called Teachers We Want to F*** has photos of staff on it where pupils are leaving comments and photographs."

She continued: "Teachers reported pupils filming themselves masturbating and sharing the images, girls taking nude pictures of themselves and sending them to older boys, regular incidents of girls sending nude pictures to their boyfriends and then these are more widely shared."

To start to tackle the problem, she said: "Schools must be encouraged to monitor and record incidents against teachers and pupils that are of a sexualised nature."

She also said all schools should have "whole school policies on preventing sexual harassment and violence" to protect pupils and teachers.

She added: "There has to be a clear message that those who do seek to abuse, harass and threaten staff and pupils through the use of social media will face serious sanctions - zero tolerance has to be introduced."