Schools have been urged to update their emergency procedures after a spate of bomb scares, with new reports claiming a bomb threat can be bought on the “dark web” for less than £5.
At least 18 schools have been targeted by bomb threats – including 14 in the West Midlands – in the past few weeks. Many schools evacuated pupils, but police said the threats were either not credible or being treated as malicious communications.
An investigation by the International Business Times last week found threats against schools were being sold on the dark web, a section of the internet where sites are invisible to normal browsers.
A reporter was offered a price of less than £5 per school if more than 10 were ordered at once. The seller – who said buildings in the US and Canada could also be targeted – had made 50 sales transactions in a single day in February, the investigation found.
Now schools have been urged to update their emergency procedures.
Kaley Foran, a researcher specialising in school administration for school support service The Key, said having clear procedures in place could help to ensure all staff understand their role and respond confidently should the situation arise.
She said school policies can either explain how to handle specific situations, such as phone threats or suspicious packages, or form part of a broader emergency procedures.
Using the example of a threatening phone call, Ms Foran said schools could instruct staff to record the call, or take detailed notes, and ask questions about where any possible bomb is located, what time it is due to go off and what it looks like.
Oldbury Academy, in the West Midlands, said its emergency procedures are “constantly being reviewed” after evacuating pupils four times over bomb threats since the start of January.
The school received its latest threat before school had started on February 8, but police confirmed it as not credible by 8.22am and it remained open.
Ms Foran said it was up to schools to decide if pupils should be evacuated after a receiving a hoax, but added most should and did. Oldbury, in its letter to parents, said pupils can only return to school once the police have confirmed if the threat was credible.
The Department for Education says there are “clear emergency arrangements in place that have been agreed with police and the local authority” should an evacuation be required.