Hundreds more children told to stay home as tenth school closes due to false widow spiders

Hundreds more children told to stay home as tenth school closes due to false widow spiders

Hundreds more children have been told to stay at home after the presence of false widow spiders has closed a tenth school.

Thousands of families have now been affected by closures across east and north London since last week after infestations of the venomous were discovered on school sites.

Parents have spoken out against the disruption caused by schools deciding to close their doors for up to three weeks on the discovery of the spiders, calling it “over the top” and ridiculous”.

John F Kennedy Special School became the latest school in Newham to close due to spiders on Friday. Campuses in nearby Stratford and Beckton have also been closed for the foreseeable future.

Highfield Primary School in Enfield in north London has also closed this week due to an infestation.

The schools join three secondary schools in east London – Eastlea Community School, Rokeby School and Lister Community School – which have been forced to shut down lessons since last week.

And four primary schools – Star School, Ellen Wilkinson School, Earlham School, Godwin Junior – and a nursery at Monega Primary School which have also had to close to treat infestations.

Shammim Sadiq, whose 13-year-old daughter goes to Lister Community School, said the closure had been “extremely disruptive” to their lives.

Ms Sadiq, who is disabled, has found it difficult to help her daughter, who is deaf, with her work.

She told The Independent: “Because of her needs, it is even harder for me to support her… I had a fall at home and I have been extremely unwell. And when she is at home it is much more difficult for me. If she was at school it wouldn’t be so much of an issue during the day.”

On the decision to close the school for weeks, she said: “It is absolutely ridiculous. This country has gone through world wars and trauma and we have managed. This is just spiders – so why?”

A mother, whose son goes to Godwin Junior School in Newham, also criticised the local authority’s response to the spiders after it was closed due to the infestation.

She said: “I think it’s a bit over the top. I don’t want my son to be scared of spiders. Spiders are in the world – we are humans, we live in a world with animals and insects. We need to learn to live alongside each other.”

On the closure of Godwin Junior School, another mother said: “My husband was angry – he just made a fleeting comment, ‘well you can’t close the school for two days’ and my take on that is that they haven’t taken it lightly. It’s an inconvenience on us parents but it’s health and safety.”

David Wiggins, who has a nine-year-old child at Highfield Primary School in Enfield, said him and his wife have had to rearrange work meetings to look after their son during the closure this week.

He told The Independent: “He has also come to some of my meetings. We have been trying to keep him up-to-date with his assignments. He has been very restless.”

An Enfield Council spokesperson said: “The decision to close Highfield School was made at the headteacher’s discretion. The site is being treated by an external company. We share the view of Public Health England and pest control advisers,who do not see school closures as necessary and the spiders do not pose a significant health risk.

“However, we will endeavour to support the school and its staff as much as possible by remaining in close contact. Children have been given the resources to continue their learning at home, and we expect the school to reopen as soon as possible.”

Councillor Julianne Marriott, cabinet member for education at Newham Council, said: “No headteacher wants to be in a position where they have to close their school. Our headteachers know their schools and pupils best, and have their children’s welfare as top priority.

“They have not made these decisions lightly and we fully support the actions they’ve taken. We have different types of schools comprising new buildings and old, which have different number of spiders.  Our schools cater for pupils with a variety of differing needs that they need to accommodate.

“The school closures have been of varying lengths of time based on the advice of pest control professionals and detailed risk assessments. Many of the affected schools are reopening next week and have worked with other schools, our colleges and sixth forms to ensure children continue to have access to education.”

Independent

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