A Wiltshire secondary school has been severely affected by a targeted attack by hackers now demanding a ransom to restore access to its IT network.

Hardenhuish School in Chippenham has been forced to notify parents of its 1,623 pupils after finding that hackers had accessed its systems over the weekend.

The attack has affected the school's local server, its website, internet access, WiFi, printers and internal telephone systems.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald:

The school sent out a text to all parents saying: “Yesterday, we became aware that Hardenhuish School has been targeted by a hacker who has installed ransomware on our local servers.

“In simple words, this means that someone from outside of school has gained access and control of the school IT network and is asking for money to restore the network.

“This means that all IT services which depend on our local servers are currently down, including the school website, internal school telephones, printing and wi-fi access.

“As far as we can tell at this point, no personal data has been compromised although our forensic specialists are at the early stages of their investigation and will update us as the situation unfolds.

“We are hopeful that at least some of our processes and systems will be back up and running by the beginning of next week and will keep you informed as soon as we have more information about the situation.

“We have been in school today and made arrangements for the site to be open as normal to minimise disruption as far as possible.”

The school said lessons would be held as normal with paper registers being used to record pupil attendance and absences.

Pupils are being advised to bring in their SmartCards for identification purposes as lunchtime payments “will be a challenge” without the school’s cashless catering system being able to operate.

The school said Year 10 mock exams and extracurricular activities would continue as planned and any amendments to these would be communicated separately.

Pupils using their own IT devices to support their learning would be able to do so but would not be able to access the school internet.

While its telephone network is down, the school will rely on mobiles to communicate across the site.

It added: “Please be reassured that our safeguarding and emergency systems are unaffected.”