'SCARED' pupils silently cowered in their classrooms after a suspicious intruder was spotted outside their school.

Oxford Spires Academy in East Oxford launched an emergency lockdown on Wednesday, as police were called out to reports of a man who was potentially armed.

One parent said her daughter was crouched in a corner for a hour in 'deathly silence' while another said the man had a knife, although this has not been confirmed by the school or police.

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A school email sent to parents at 2.49pm said: "We have taken the precaution to lock down the school site as we have seen an intruder on the far corner of the school boundary.

"We are expecting the all-clear shortly and we will communicate this to you when lessons commence.

"The school is calm and all students and staff are safe."

Father-of-three Amir Ali, whose 12-year-old son attends Oxford Spires, said he was among 'panicked' parents who rushed to the school gates after hearing what happened.

The Oxford Times:

The 38-year-old, from East Oxford, said: "My son said he was hiding under the table, he was a bit scared.

"My main issue was that there wasn't a single police officer outside when school finished - if there was a suspicious man, how do they know there weren't more waiting outside when they were walking home?

"It's totally ridiculous."

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He said his niece, who is also a Spires pupil, had called his mum in tears and said there was a man who 'had a knife.'

Another parent said the same, stating: "It is believed the intruder was armed and students were left scared and hiding for over an hour."

Mr Amir said schools should seriously consider having a security guard on the gate to keep children safe.

He said: "Especially now with knife crimes here and there, you don't know what might happen.

"They should have someone constantly on the gate. I think it has come to that, in today's world."

He added that he had heard from some parents that the man had been caught, and from others that he had got away, but that the school had not confirmed how the incident had been resolved.

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One parent posted on Facebook saying she her daughter was 'very scared' and 'huddled in a corner for an hour.'

Posting on the public Oxford Community page, she added: "No talking, the teacher hiding under her table.

"Deathly silence throughout the school."

One parent, commenting on the Oxford Mail's online article, said: "My daughter goes to this school and I am thankful to the staff for doing this, because you never know what the outcome could have been."

One year ago Oxford Spires was forced to close after it received a bomb threat via email, which turned out to be a hoax.

The popular school in Glanville Road, which teaches 1,087 pupils, has not yet responded to a request for information about the latest incident.

Thames Valley Police was also asked for details of the call-out, but failed to respond.

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In September teaching union the NASUWT published guidance on school lockdown procedures, raising concerns that 'advice given to schools is inadequate.'

The guide states: "Schools should have a contingency plan and procedures in place to deal with [lockdown] similar to fire procedures."

Many Oxfordshire schools have taken the initiative to create their own protocols.

River Learning Trust, which oversees 20 schools, has a document on its website called 'School Closure Lockdown Emergency Planning.'

It states: "Schools may have unwanted visitors.

"The school should develop a lock down procedure to ensure that, as far as reasonably practicable, employees and pupils are kept safe from harm.

"The procedure should be tested annually."

Bure Park Primary School in Bicester also has an 'emergency planning policy' on its website.

It notes that lockdown will be initiated by 'three short bursts of the fire alarm' and everyone should stay put upon hearing the signal.

The procedure adds: "Classroom teachers are to quickly glance outside the room to direct any students or staff members in the hall into your room immediately.

"Lock all external and internal doors [and] lower or close any blinds.

"Place students against the wall, so that the intruder cannot see them looking in the door.

"Look for the a possible ‘safe corner,’ turn out the lights and computer monitors, and keep students quiet."

Oxfordshire County Council has produced emergency procedure guidance specifically for early years settings, such as nurseries.

It says: "Think about the shelter you will provide, away from windows and doors.

"Think about having ‘grab bags’ which contain non-perishable food, communication devices and chargers, and a copy of your plan.

"Police and the local authority need to be informed that you have locked down, giving your exact location, numbers locked in, means of contact, and any other important information."

St Gregory the Great Catholic School in East Oxford had to initiate lockdown in June 2017, after a member of the public reported an attack nearby.