Education & Family

What do schools do when a hoax call disrupts exams?

Emergency services at Carluke Primary in South Lanarkshire Image copyright DAVE TAYLOR
Image caption Schools across the UK have been affected

Hundreds of pupils across the UK have faced disruption to exams following a spate of hoax calls.

Many schools were evacuated as a precaution, meaning some GCSE, A-level and Higher exams had to be abandoned.

The BBC News website answers some of the key questions on the issue.

Is there any bomb alert guidance for schools?

Yes. There is a procedure for schools to follow in the event of an emergency such as a fire or bomb alert during public examinations.

This is set out by the Joint Council for Qualifications, which represent the seven largest UK exam providers.

What should schools do then?

Exam invigilators are advised to stop candidates from writing, collect the attendance register (in order to ensure all candidates are present) and evacuate the examination room.

Students should be told to leave all question papers and scripts in the exam room and must leave the exam hall in silence.

Staff must make sure that the candidates are supervised as closely as possible while they are out of the exam hall, to make sure there is no discussion about the examination.

Invigilators should make a note of the time of the interruption and how long it lasted and allow the candidates the full working time set for the examination.

The guidance says if there are only a few candidates, schools should consider the possibility of taking the candidates (with question papers and scripts) to another place to finish the examination.

Schools have to make a full report of the incident and of the action taken and send this to the relevant exam board.

What about students' results?

Students whose public exams were disrupted can rest assured that the situation will be fed back to the examiners. Schools will document how the exams were affected and send this to the exam boards. The boards will make any adjustments as they see fit, on a case-by-case basis.

A spokeswoman for the AQA exam board said: "We need to look at each case on an individual basis because there are a range of ways in which students might have been affected - they might have taken all, part or none of the exam, or been affected by the incident in different ways.

"Once we know the full circumstances from the schools, we can decide on the best course of action. In the meantime, our message to students is not to worry and to concentrate on the exams they've got coming up."

What happened in schools following Monday's calls?

It is not yet clear exactly how many schools received a hoax call and how each individual school dealt with it. It is thought some schools dismissed the caller as a hoax, while others implemented an evacuation.

For approximately 240 GCSE and A-level candidates at Canterbury Academy in Kent, the hoax call meant their exams had to be interrupted.

Head teacher Phil Karnavas said a thorough police search of his large school took three and a half hours to complete, meaning the exams could not be resumed.

Mr Karnavas said students, who were sitting a mixture of GCSE English, A-level English, A-level product design and A-level textiles, would not have the option to re-sit the disrupted exams.

He told the BBC: "What will happen now is is the work they managed to complete in the exam will be taken into account, as will other parts of their examination - other papers - and if there was any controlled assessment or coursework, that will be taken into account.

"Special consideration will be launched and an aggregate grade will be awarded."

What is special consideration?

Special consideration is a post-exam adjustment to a candidate's mark or grade on the part of exam boards.

It is used to in circumstances where temporary illness, temporary injury or other indisposition at the time of the exam, could have had an effect on a candidate's ability to take an exam or demonstrate his or her normal level of attainment.

Schools which were evacuated mid-way through exams on Monday would have grounds to apply for special consideration for their students.

What are the police doing about these incidents?

The police are currently investigating the spate of hoax calls to UK schools on Monday.

Officers say there is no information at this stage to suggest the incidents are terrorist-related, however enquiries are continuing to establish the facts.

A spokeswoman for the National Police Chiefs' Council said: "Forces are working together to investigate who is responsible and whether incidents are linked. At this point, there is nothing to link these with a spate of similar calls earlier this year but this has not been ruled out.

"Police take hoaxes extremely seriously. They divert police resources and cause disruption and alarm to the public."

What should pupils and parents do?

The best thing pupils and parents can do is to stay calm and try not to let the incident distract them from the rest of the exams.

If they have any concerns, they should raise them with senior staff at the school.

What does the government say?

The Department for Education, which oversees schools in England, says in the event of a call like those on Monday, schools should - where possible - seek alternative venues for students to sit their exams.

It says staff should alert the exam boards as soon as possible and also make sure pupils and their parents are kept updated.

I may have some information relating to these hoaxes. What should I do?

Anyone with information should contact police on 101.

Or they can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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