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The Downs School, hit by possible cyber attack, seeking help from West Berkshire Council, the Department for Education and cyber security experts

Pupils at a Compton school have been without access to the internet for nearly a week – because of a possible cyber attack.

Downs School wrote to parents explaining that IT systems had been compromised.

An RAF helicopter flew over The Downs School recently as part of the King’s Coronation celebrations
An RAF helicopter flew over The Downs School recently as part of the King’s Coronation celebrations

"As I am sure you can appreciate, last week was extremely challenging for the school staff, who had to adapt very quickly to the absence of IT across the school," wrote headteacher Chris Prosser. "I would like to take this opportunity to commend my staff for their flexibility, courage and determination to ensure the continuation of the education of our students."

He said the IT department has been working closely with the Department For Education, West Berkshire Council, ICO and Action Fraud, together with cyber security teams sent by the school's insurance company, to get systems back online safely and securely.

"We are working through a series of priorities to do this, but the complexity of this task means we are currently unable to give precise timeframes for when each IT function will be restored," he added.

He said he had prioritised re-establishing the access of Year 11 and Year 13 students to Teams, in order to ensure their access to the revision materials stored there.

But he faced criticism from parent Roy Raby whose daughter had just started taking her GSCEs.

"The communication has been terrible about this," he said.

"We do not know what is going on or what measures were being taken to help pupils access revision papers at this very important time for them."

The school said its catering till system has been unable to process food payments onto parent and carer gateway accounts.

"To ensure that food has still been available to students, we have been writing down their purchases manually," explained the head.

"This will mean that once back online, time will be allocated to inputting all purchases made by students over the previous weeks since and accounts charged.

"We would like to thank you for your patience and the kind words of support that many of you have offered us over the last week. We are navigating through what is sadly becoming a more regular occurrence, not only in schools but also in organisations across the world."

West Berkshire Council added: "The school is continuing to work hard with all partners to restore access to the IT systems as quickly as possible.

"Teaching for exam year groups finished last week and they are now concentrating on their revision for upcoming exams.

"The implementation of the schools contingency plan has helped ensure that exam year students and teachers can continue to keep in touch for additional support."

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