MORE than a third of girls wearing school uniform are being sexually harassed by members of the public, according to a shocking new survey.

A UK-wide poll found 35 per cent of girls said they had been groped, stared at, photographed, catcalled or wolf-whistled while travelling to and from school.

One in eight reported being 12-years-old or younger when they first experienced unwanted sexual attention - while some said it happened as young as eight.

In on example a girl from Glasgow said a man on a train had kept trying to put his hand on her leg when she was 15-years-old.

She said: “I ended up getting off the train at the next stop and just being completely lost. It was such a horrible experience.

“I think the worst part was feeling guilty because I was wearing a skirt, which is stupid because it shouldn’t matter what I was wearing, but in the moment it did.”

A girl from Edinburgh added: “I’ve never experienced harassment like I did at school. Men would ask if they could take a picture with me in my uniform. It was awful. I was so scared walking home.”

The survey comes as pressure mounts on the Scottish Government to take decisive action to combat sexual harassment of schoolgirls.

Ministers are in talks with campaigners about a new initiative to highlight the issue and have tightened up reporting procedures - but the response has been criticised for not going far enough.

The problem was highlighted last year at the Scottish Parliament with evidence girls routinely faced sexual harassment and assault in or around schools.

A report on the latest survey, conducted by the Plan International UK children’s charity, said: “Girls frequently described witnessing and experiencing harassment at a very young age, sometimes as young as eight years old.

"In all of the cases described, girls felt sure that the age of the girls being targeted must have been clear to the harasser, particularly when the girls were in school uniform or travelling around school time.

"They were shocked that this did not appear to stop men from harassing and commented on how badly the harassment could affect them."

The survey of more than 1,000 girls aged 14 to 21, found one in seven had been followed while in uniform, eight per cent said they had been filmed or photographed by a stranger without their permission or someone had taken a photograph up their school skirt.

One in eight girls said their first experience of unwanted sexual attention or contact in a public place was when they were 12 years old or younger.

Girls felt that being in school uniform made them a particular target and described feeling sexualised and "fetishised" by older men.

The charity is now calling on the Westminster Government to recognise harassment in public as a form of gender-based violence.

Tanya Barron, chief executive at Plan International UK, said: "It is shocking and deeply concerning that girls, many of whom are clearly of school age because they are in uniform, are being targeted and sexually harassed by perpetrators in the street."

The survey was backed by Girlguiding Scotland, which is calling on the Scottish Government to take urgent action.

The organisation wants compulsory sex and relationships education covering consent, online abuse, gender equality and healthy relationships. It also wants all schools to have a duty to prevent and tackle sexual harassment.

A spokeswoman said: "We’re disappointed, but not surprised to see these figures which show sexual harassment for girls and young women is widespread.

"We were encouraged that the Scottish Government has committed to better recording of incidents of prejudice based bullying in schools, but clearly much more needs to be done to tackle this problem in and out of schools."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We are committed to ensuring everyone has the right to live their life free of abuse, harassment and intimidation.

"We are taking action on many fronts to invest in prevention work, frontline services and improvements in the justice system, as well as the introduction of landmark legislation on domestic abuse, abusive behaviour and sexual harm.”