Hundreds of schools across the country have been evacuated today, after receiving bomb threats by email.
The threats, which are being treated by police as a hoax, warn that a bomb has been placed in the school grounds and will be detonated unless money is paid.
Humberside police said 400 schools and colleges around the country received the emails today, with areas affected including London, Northumberland and Yorkshire.
The hoax is believe to come from America. An image posted to Twitter shows an email claiming to have “sent in a student with a bomb” that will go off in three hours unless $5,000 is paid.
“If you try to call the cops we WILL blowup [sic] the device on the SPOT! ANY attempt at defusing it your self [sic] will cause it to explode,” it adds.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said it was aware of the situation, and that any school affected should contact police and follow standard procedures for such incidents.
Government guidance for handling bomb threats states that, no matter how ridiculous or implausible the threat may seem, “all such communications are a crime and should be reported to the police”.
If a bomb threat is received by email, the message should not be replied to, forwarded or deleted. Recipients are advised to note the sender’s email address and preserve all web log files from seven days before the threat and 48 hours after to help the police investigation.
The advice adds that the decision to evacuate should not be delayed until the police arrive. It recommends that at least two assembly points are identified in opposite directions and preferably not in a car park.
Humberside police said 19 schools in East Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire received the threat this morning.
“We have been liaising with our counter terrorism colleagues across the country and it is not believed that the threats are credible,” said detective superintendent Tony Cockerill.
“We have spoken to all schools who have contacted us, reassured them that there is no need to evacuate and offered them security advice.”
A statement from Northumbria police said a “large number of schools” in the region received the emails, but there was “no viable threat.”
“Schools have been visited by police to reassure them that the incident is being treated as a hoax and address any concerns. We take all incidents of this nature extremely seriously and an investigation into the emails in question is underway.”
The Metropolitan Police said it was investigating emails sent to “a number of schools across London” today, while a spokesperson for North Yorkshire police said officers were “working with schools to offer reassurance and address any concerns”.
A spokesperson for the DfE said: “Where any school receives a threat, real or otherwise, they should contact the police and follow their advice. All schools have clear emergency plans in place, which have been agreed with police and the local authority.
“It is a criminal offence to make threats of this kind and should they occur they will be investigated by police.”