Norfolk school closures text and email alerts suspended

A text and email alert system used to notify parents of school closures in Norfolk has been suspended after some users received dozens of messages.

Nearly 2,500 people had signed up for the text service and were charged 25p for every message they were sent.

Norfolk County Council said more than 1,700 of its text subscribers were affected by the software error.

It said all would receive a refund and that the service had been suspended until the problem could be solved.

The text and email alert service was launched in November, enabling parents, pupils and teachers to receive messages telling them when their school was closed.

While they were charged for texts, with all money going towards the cost of running the service, email alerts were free.

One mother from Norwich, who asked not to be named, said she received more than 30 emails over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, telling her Recreation Road Primary School and City of Norwich School were closed.

'A minor irritation'

"If it worked, it would have been great. But I was at work and my phone was in my pocket, and it kept going off," she said.

"One message would have been fine - I didn't need more than 30.

"It was minor irritation. Thankfully I'd signed up for the emails, which were free. If they were texts and I was being charged for them, I wouldn't have been happy."

A council spokesman said: "There was a problem with the software package we use, caused by the combination of a very large number of schools reporting as closed during a 15-minute period and a significant increase in the number of subscribers.

"This led to the system being unable to complete sending out the SMS text messages related to one set of closures before the next set needed to be sent, causing some SMS text notifications to get stuck in a loop and being sent repeatedly until they could be stopped. "

He said the council did not know the total number of texts sent in error, but was investigating. However, he said about 1,740 of its 2,400 text subscribers were affected.

All subscribers have been sent a free text telling them the service had been suspended and they are being advised to check the council's school closures website for up-to-date information.

Those affected have been informed that the cost of any texts sent in error would be refunded, with details on how to claim following later this week.

"We are currently working on a plan of action to improve the resilience and performance of the system," the spokesman added.

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