A recently-released survey has found one in five British women reporting having been groped, flashed, sexually assaulted, or raped as schoolgirls, although most did not report the incidents.
The poll by children's charity Plan UK discovered 22% of women over the age of 18 had experienced unwanted sexual touching, groping, flashing, or rape while "in or around" school. Of that group, 10% said the incidents had happened "sometimes" or "frequently". The remaining 90% said they had "rarely" occurred.
In addition, 61% said they never reported the incidents to a teacher or another authority figure, writes Hannah Stubbs for The Sun.
Tanya Barron, of Plan UK, said: "Our findings show that schoolgirls have been suffering in silence for decades. We know that these experiences can have a devastating impact on their lives. Unwanted sexual contact can affect a young girl's self-esteem and educational achievements. It is extremely worrying to see that girls have been experiencing unwanted sexual contact in or around school since at least the 1940s."
According to results found from both genders, 32% between the ages of 18 and 24 reported unwanted sexual touching in or around school. The same was true for 11% of participants above the age of 65. The findings suggest the problem is on the rise, as more younger students are reporting these incidents than are older students, writes Hayden Smith for The Independent.
Plan UK is recommending a number of measures including additional support for teachers to help them prevent and manage these incidents and to effectively address gender equality, writes Lucy Sherriff for The Huffington Post. In addition, the charity would like to see an increase in the quality of statutory sex and relationship education (SRE) in order to offer students a better understanding of consent and healthy relationships, to ensure that bullying policies discuss gender and violence against girls, and to create an environment in which victims feel safe to report these incidents to school staff members.
Ms Barron added: "This is a global problem. Girls and boys need clear messages that unwanted sexual contact in or around school is not acceptable."
Earlier this month, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan had ruled against making sex education a requirement at all schools.
A Government spokesman said that women should not feel unsafe or be harassed at any point in time, adding that sexual assault is a crime that should be reported to police. Sex and relationship education classes are required at all secondary schools under the law and are expected to be included in the curriculum at academies and free schools.
The spokesman went on to say the Government is currently working with headteachers and practitioners to determine how the quality of PSHE teaching, which includes sex and relationship education, can be increased.
The study is based on interviews with over 3,700 British citizens age 18 and older. More than 2,000 of the participants were women.