Pupils were kept in their classrooms after a gunman was spotted outside their school.

Police launched an armed response after three men, including one who was believed to be armed, were seen near Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA), in Falmer yesterday afternoon.

A member of staff at the former Falmer High School dialed 999 after seeing the men and pupils were ushered into their classrooms.

But when the police helicopter located the men it was discovered the gunman was using a legal air rifle to hunt rabbits.

Pupils reported seeing the weapon fired at the school fence but police said they could not confirm the claim.

The mother of a 13-year-old pupil said: “My son said it was a boy chasing three rabbits with a gun.

“He apparently fired the gun and a lot of pupils saw it.

“It is really worrying. I’m really worried about how this could have happened.”

A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said: “Police were called to the Lewes Road area of Falmer yesterday afternoon following a report that three men had been seen in the area carrying a suspected firearm.

“Firearms officers attending the scene following the call at 2.30pm and the men were quickly located at 2.55pm with the help of police helicopter.”

“The men were in possession of an air rifle. They were spoken to by officers and they were given strong words of advice.

“At no point was anyone threatened with a firearm and no offences were identified.”

A school spokesman said: “The police were called to an incident adjacent to the BACA site this afternoon. This incident did not involve any student or staff member.

“As a result, all students were kept in their classrooms, where they were safe and secure. “Once the police advised the site was safe, which was just after the normal academy closing time, the students were released to go home.”