False widow spiders close two more London schools

BBC News
Natural History Museum False widows are the most dangerous spider species in the UK

Two more east London schools have closed because of an infestation of false widow spiders.

John F Kennedy Special School, which has campuses in Stratford and Beckton, and Godwin Junior School, in Forest Gate, announced they would close.

False widows are about the size of a 50p coin and are the most dangerous spider species in the UK.

Four secondary schools and four primary schools, all in Newham, have closed for various amounts of time.

Thousands of children have been forced to miss up to a month of lessons because of the spider outbreaks, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

JFK School said it would close "until further notice" while Godwin School is closing for five days.

'Careful deliberation'

They join Eastlea Community School in Canning Town, which shut on Wednesday until after half term to clear the arachnids.

Its headteacher Stephen Gillatt said in a statement the decision to close was "taken in best interests of the safety of students" and followed "careful deliberation".

Two other secondaries - Rokeby School and Lister Community School - have also shut until the end of the month.

The schools affected are:

  • Lister Community School, which is expected to remain shut until after half term
  • Rokeby School, which had expected to remain closed until half term but may now open on 15 October
  • Star Primary School, which is expected to remain shut until 15 October
  • Ellen Wilkinson Primary School, which is expected to fully reopen on 16 October
  • Monega Primary School, which has fully reopened apart from the nursery which will remain closed until 15 October
  • Earlham Primary, which closed for one day last week before being declared spider free
  • Godwin Junior School, which closed on 11 October for five days
  • John F Kennedy Special School shut both its campuses on 11 October "until further notice"

Several of the closed schools have arranged for some of their year groups to use facilities at nearby colleges while buildings are fumigated.

Work has also been set for pupils to do at home.

False widow infestations have been found at numerous locations across the affected schools, both inside and outside the school buildings.

Newham Council said it was working with schools to ensure children can still learn while missing lessons.

"‚ÄčIt is normal to see more spiders at this time of year as they come indoors for warmth," it said, adding: "False widow spiders are native to the UK, and are common in Southern England.

"They are most active at night; during the day they tend to remain within or near their webs."

False widows - Britain's most venomous spider

  • There are reports of false widow spiders becoming uninvited houseguests in homes across the UK every autumn
  • False widow spiders arrived in south-west England in the 1870s
  • It is Britain's most venomous spider, although there are no reported deaths from its bite in the UK
  • The spider has distinctive cream markings on its bulbous body and is brown with reddish-orangey legs
  • It prefers warm, dark places and eats insects, invertebrates and other spiders

Source: Natural History Museum

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