Newham schools forced to shut due to false widow spider infestations

False widow spider infestations have closed several schools in Newham. Pic: The Natural History Muse

False widow spider infestations have closed several schools in Newham. Pic: The Natural History Museum - Credit: The Natural History Museum / Tru

Schools across Newham have been forced to shut following the discovery of false widow spiders - with one remaining shut until the end of the month.

Rokeby School in Canning Town will remain closed to both staff and pupils until Monday, October 29.

In a letter to parents from headteacher Charlotte Robinson, dated today (Wednesday), she revealed the “infestation of spiders” was discovered this morning and that a pest control company will need to take up to three weeks to eradicate them.

Pupils will be set work to complete at home in the meantime, with Ms Robinson adding that “the safety and wellbeing of students and staff must be our priority”.

Star Lane Primary School, also in Canning Town, is closed “until further notice”, and Ellen Wilkinson Primary School, Beckton, will be closed until the end of the week “due to circumstances beyond our control”.

Other schools have been closed as a precaution, including Lister Community School in Plaistow.

A statement on the school’s website from headteacher Anthony Wilson said that the school would be closed tomorrow (Thursday) for an investigation but that it hoped to reopen again on Friday.

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He added that there had been no reports of anyone at the school being bitten but that an investigation suggested there may be some spiders on the site.

A Newham Council spokeswoman said: “Two local primary schools (Ellen Wilkinson and Star) and two secondary (Rokeby and Lister) have closed to treat a‘ noble false widow’ spider infestation.

“The spiders only bite if mishandled or provoked. The venom is not particularly potent. Often, the symptoms are no worse than the pain of a wasp sting; however, extra precautions need to be taken around those that are vulnerable i.e. under the age of five, the elderly or those on medication.

“The schools are being treated and fumigated and we are working with the schools to ensure that children can continue to receive an education whilst their school is closed. Pupils are being set work via the schools and will remain in contact with schools.

“We are asking all our schools and nurseries to proactively check their premises carefully for these spiders and if they see any signs, then contact environmental health or pest control as well as notifying the council.”