It is not possible to eradicate bullying in schools, according to the headteacher of Loretto’s boarding school at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

Dr Graham Hawley, Headmaster of Loretto in Musselburgh, East Lothian, admitted that he can’t say with absolute certainty that peer-on-peer abuse and harassment isn’t happening in his school now.

The sixth, and latest, phase of the inquiry is investigating abuse perpetrated in Scottish boarding schools.

Speaking at the inquiry, Hawley explained that it was something he was always concerned could be happening.

Hawley said: “As a head, you always have this concern that there are things that are going on that you’re unaware of, that could materialise years, or decades down the line, and its impact on victims is so acute, that we do everything we can do to prevent it.

READ MOREAlmost 300 teachers unregistered in independent schools in Scotland

“It is difficult to say that with 100% certainty that it is not happening.

“Because the impact is so profound, it’s something as a head, I don’t think ever leaves us and therefore informs the practice.

“We absolutely have to be on our guard. I don’t think it’s ever a battle which is going to be won, it’s always something that is going to be in society.”

Inquiry hearings are focused on seven schools including Loretto School, Fettes College, Gordonstoun, and Merchiston Castle School.

People affected by abuse in these establishments are urged by Lady Smith, who leads the inquiry, to give evidence.

Hawley explained that he thought he had “understood and processed” the scope of abuse at Loretto - which pre-dated his role.

However, he said the inquiry uncovered more abuse than he had been aware of.

Hawley continued: “We knew there had been some abuse, that had been previously documented in the media, a long time ago.

READ MOREScottish Government urged to close sex offence loophole or risk 'falling behind' England and Wales

“I think the abuse that we were made aware of when we looked at the witness statements was deeply destressing,” he added.

Hawley acknowledged the “profound” impact that the abuse which occurred at Loretto had on people’s lives and said they “regret it hugely”.

“I hope we are able to make some difference – we wouldn’t have been able to do that without engaging with the inquiry.”

“But reading the papers…there is a sense that I feel I am still processing it more recently, walking the corridors where it would have occurred.

“It is deeply troubling. I’m not sure I’ve fully processed it,” he continued.

When asked by QC Brown – counsel to the inquiry - if peer-on-peer abuse had gotten worse in recent years, Hawley said that it was more the scope of bulling that has changed.

He explained that whilst increased supervision has decreased the volume of bullying at Loretto, social media has increased it.

READ MOREGo-ahead for Crown appeal after priest cleared of child sex abuse

Hawley argued: “I think there has been a difference with the advent of digital and social media.

“That’s something that didn’t exist when I first started. It’s a whole new sphere of bullying behaviour.”

However, he added: “There was probably more bullying then, than there is now.

“I think there has been an ebb and flow – I’m not sure it’s got any worse in depth – when it’s bad, it’s very bad.

“We saw that as a school when we read some of the very harrowing accounts of peer-on-peer abuse – but at a level I’ve experienced myself, social media has increased it, increased supervision has decreased it.

“It is something that is always evolving.”