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Northern Ireland schools alerts: Primary school principal hails pupils for behaviour during bomb threat evacuation

By Claire Williamson

Published 24/05/2016

Leadhill Primary School, in Castlereagh, was among a number of Northern Ireland schools evacuated due to 'malicious communications'
Leadhill Primary School, in Castlereagh, was among a number of Northern Ireland schools evacuated due to 'malicious communications'

The PSNI is investigating a series of "malicious communications" made to schools across Northern Ireland and the UK.

Police have said there is no information to suggest the incidents are "terrorist-related".

A message received by a parent of a pupil at Leadhill Primary School.
A message received by a parent of a pupil at Leadhill Primary School.

While parents have said their children's schools were evacuated due to a  "bomb threat".

One primary school principal hailed his pupils for their conduct during his school's alert.

Up to seven schools were evacuated on Tuesday morning. Police have not released a list of schools, below is a list of those schools we know of so far.

At least 21 schools across UK are said to have received anonymous phone calls warning of a bomb.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Garry Eaton said: "Between 9am and 10am the schools, all of which were primary schools, received calls claiming explosive devices had been placed at each location.

"Local police responded immediately, working with the individual school authorities to establish what the circumstances of the calls were and to put appropriate procedures in place to ensure the safety of both pupils and staff.

"Some schools opted to evacuate pupils, in line with their own protocols. This was obviously a very serious and worrying situation, particularly for the parents of pupils at the schools however after thorough police searches of all of the schools, no devices were found.”

At this time PSNI is exploring a possible link to similar calls received by schools in Britain on Monday.

Chief Superintendent Eaton added: "A link is obviously a strong line of enquiry and we will be working closely with our colleagues in the other police services concerned to establish if there is any definite connection between their calls and ours, and we will continue to liaise with them as appropriate as we take our investigation forward."

Schools in Dublin and Limerick evacuated after bomb threats  

Evacuated schools:

Bloomfield Primary School in Bangor

Linn Primary School Larne

Leadhill Primary School Castlereagh

Ballysally Primary School  Coleraine

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It is understood parents of children at schools affected were contacted to inform them to collect their children.

Temporary Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said: “PSNI are investigating a series of malicious communications to schools across Northern Ireland today.

"At this stage there is no information to suggest the incidents are terrorist-related, however enquiries continue to establish the facts.

"We will liaise with other UK Police services who have received similar calls, to investigate who is responsible and whether these incidents are linked.

"Anyone with information should contact police on the non-emergency number 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Principal: 'Children a credit' during evacuation

Principal of Ballysally Primary School in Coleraine Geoff Dunne said his pupils were a "credit" to themselves and their families in how they acted during, what he described as a "calm evacuation".

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "It was a very disruptive morning. We received a telephone call and the first thoughts were for the safety and welfare of the pupils - which we managed to do.

"Police made a thorough sweep of the area and assured it was safe to go back into school.

"The children were absolutely terrific. They were so well behaved and orderly and mannerly, really a credit to themselves, their families and the staff were terrific in dealing with any wee questions they had. It was very calm and orderly.

"It's very frustrating when we are trying to meet the needs of children and this comes in.

"The fact the procedure work so well and the children were a credit."

Father-of-three saw whole school walk past window

Shaun Sharkey couldn't believe his eyes when he saw his three children age five, seven and nine among hundreds walking past his window on Tuesday morning.

The 27-year-old praised the school for how upbeat they were with the children during the suspected threat.

"I saw the whole school with their teachers walking past the house. I saw my children among them and asked what was going on. I thought it was a day trip out. Then I saw the police cars at the school and the whole school was being evacuated.

"The teachers were trying to keep everybody calm."

"I don't know why or what the reasons are."

He added that his children thought it was a fire alarm.

"I was very pleased at how the school handled it. And for the fact that they got the children out safely and then rung the parents after I would like to thank the school for that, it was a good job," he added.

"The teachers were so upbeat walking past the house, so friendly and keeping all the children in high spirits and they thought it was a day trip out in the sun."

A spokesman for the Education Authority said they are working closely with the PSNI.

He said in a statement: “The Education Authority has been made aware of malicious communications to a number of schools today.

"Schools have in place policies and procedures for dealing with such incidents. They have been working closely with their local PSNI officers and taking the relevant precautionary measures to ensure the safety of all children.”

Bloomfield primary school took 'immediate action to safeguard pupils'

The principal of Bloomfield Primary School has said they took immediate action following the threat.

Principal Rebecca Dowie said: "As soon as the information was received by the school, Senior Management and all the staff acted promptly, following agreed procedures. The police were immediately informed  and the school and its nursery unit were evcauated.

"All parents were also made aware of the evacuation taking place and where to collect their children from."

"I want to strongly emphasise that Bloomfield Primary School took immediate action to safeguard our pupils - their welfare is of paramount importance to the school."

'Utterly reprehensible'

SDLP Justice Spokesperson Alex Attwood MLA condemned those behind a series of malicious phone calls to schools.

He said: “Today has seen children across Northern Ireland and Britain evacuated from their classrooms. It is a development that will shock many and must be condemned by everyone.

“I commend the actions of staff who acted quickly and professionally as the situation unfolded. As details continue to emerge we must remember this disturbance comes at a time when pupils across these islands prepare for their exams. To threaten children and staff in this way is utterly reprehensible.

“Any and all threats must be taken seriously and the PSNI will work with their colleagues in the South and in Britain as they pursue those responsible.”

Limerick school evacuation

Meanwhile in Limerick hundreds of school children have been evacuated following a bomb threat on Tuesday morning.

Gardai has cordoned off the area.

Similar threats to schools in Scotland 'not credible'

It follows similar threats in England and Scotland on Monday. They said the threats made to schools across Scotland "do not appear to be credible" but are being taken seriously.

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