Chief Constable Simon Bailey said officers were aware of more than 7,000 reports. He added that the allegations engulfing some of the country’s leading private schools were the “tip of the iceberg” in what will be the “next major scandal” for the country.
The comments came as Tory MP Robert Halfon insisted claims of a “rape culture” at independent schools must be investigated by one body.
Stories have emerged of girls being “objectified, harassed and sexually assaulted” with websites set up by students claiming “a rape culture”.
Mr Halfon said deeply disturbing alleged activities at some of the country’s top schools were “appalling” and had spread to state schools.
The chairman of the powerful Commons education select committee said senior staff had been “at best unable or at worst unwilling” to deal with them. In London the Met Police is already investigating, but he said that afterwards there should be an independent inquiry.
“Rather than marking their own safeguarding failures – as some schools are trying to do by appointing their own judge and jury – headteachers and governors should be held directly accountable. If found wanting, they should step down from their positions.”
The Met reviewed evidence on the Everyone’s Invited website where people anonymously share their stories of abuse. More than 100 schools are named.
Mr Bailey said it was a “huge societal problem” fuelled by online pornography. He added: “I think that this is the tip of the iceberg if you look at the number of testimonies that are now being recorded on the site.
“I am envisaging referrals coming in from both the private sector, the mainstream state school sector and universities.”
Alleged victims will be encouraged to call a helpline, which it is hoped will be established “within the next 72 hours.”