RACIST bullying of Eastern European pupils in Scotland has escalated since Brexit with victims hiding their nationality, researchers have warned.

Dr Daniela Sime, a lecturer in social policy from Strathclyde University, said pupils from countries such as Poland, Lithuania and Romania would try and avoid being identified by dropping their home language in public.

She said: "Particularly vulnerable groups like Roma migrant groups would try and hide that, particularly in public spaces. They would not use their home language in schools or on public transport for fear of attack.

"They try and blend in as much as possible. They don't want to stand out and that has a direct impact on their attainment as well as their mental health and wellbeing."

Dr Sime went on to call for better training of teachers and improved anti-bullying policies in schools to help eradicate the problem.

The comments came at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament's equalities and human rights committee, which is examining the issue of school bullying.

She referred to recent research by the universities of Strathclyde, Plymouth and Durham which looked at the experiences of more than 1,000 Eastern European pupils across the UK.

More than 500 of those surveyed described a range of racist experiences at school from name calling and xenophobic jokes to physical attacks.

Dr Sime said children had reported being called "terrorists", "illegals" and "prostitutes" and said they were routinely mocked about their accent or the way they looked. Many did not report the incidents because the racism had been "normalised" in school environments, she added.

She said: "A lot of them said they did not report it because these incidents happen on an every day basis. It is normalised. Teachers were sometimes perpetrators of these types of incidents and half of them said there had been an increase in this since Brexit.

"The issue of teachers not being able to manage the incidents was raised and quite a lot of them said it wasn't taken seriously because they were white.

"We were interested to see if Scotland was different from the rest of the UK, but there was no statistically significant difference in the data. There is a gap in teacher training and in policy and practice at school level as well."

Dr Katherine Botterill, a lecturer in human geography at Edinburgh Napier University, said her own findings supported the survey results.

In a 2015 report she found cases where pupils saw racism as "just banter" while misrecognition of pupils - such as Hindu and Sikh children experiencing Islamophobia - was also common.

The committee also heard concerns form Girlguiding Scotland over sexist abuse of female pupils, with some parts of school seen as "no go areas".

Last year, the organisation said cases of sexual assault and harassment were going unreported because teachers didn't know how to deal with the problem.

A survey for the body showed 25 per cent of girls between the ages of 11 and 16 were afraid to put their hands up in class for fear of harassment in front of teachers.

Carolyn Fox McKay, communications manager at Girlguiding Scotland, told the equalities committee: "Sexism is an endemic problem we have in Scotland and beyond and until we tackle it at more of a societal level we won't see that fully filtering down into schools.

"We have done some research which echoes the findings from last year and in fact sees it getting worse. There is still a lot to do and there hasn't been a lot of progress in the last year.

"Around bullying gender is often forgotten, but we are 51 per cent of the population and we are still hearing from girls who say that they find corridors in schools that they are unable to go down. That is still completely unacceptable."

Meanwhile, Katie Ferguson, service director of anti-bullying charity Respect Me revealed that fewer than half of Scotland's 32 councils have up-to-date policies on bullying. She said the charity had written to ten councils who needed to update guidance.