School’s CLOSED due to SPIDERS: frustrated parents blast Northampton academy as 1,650 students forced to stay home at short notice after suspected False Black Widow outbreak
- The Duston School emailed parents last night about a ‘suspected outbreak’ of False Black Widow spiders
- Locals and parents took to social media branding the decision ‘ridiculous’ and ‘scaremongering’
- A false spider’s bite is painful but it is not lethal like the true Black Widow
Furious parents have blasted a Northampton school after it was forced to close due to a suspected outbreak of false black widow spiders.
Some 1,650 pupils were told to stay at home at short notice after The Duston School closed its doors. The large academy caters for children aged four to 18, across primary, secondary and sixth form areas.
Parents were emailed on Tuesday evening by headteacher Sam Strickland informing them that the school would close the next day due to the suspected spider infestation.
Some 1,650 pupils at The Duston School were told to stay at home at short notice, leaving parents to organise home schooling
The Duston School in Northampton has closed today after a suspected outbreak of false black widow spiders (stock image)
The school’s decision prompted anger from overworked parents after it was shared on social media.
On Facebook, Lorri-Ann Gillies wrote: ‘Back to back meetings all day and a pitch at 11am. I mean it’s not as if I wasn’t juggling enough anyway.’
While Kirsty Huizinga said it was a ‘nightmare’.
Alison Martin wrote: ‘How ridiculous. People need to do some research on these spiders honestly. It’s complete scaremongering.’
Sunjit Sall added: ‘This country has gone bonkers. Official.’
And Keith Charles branded it ‘snowflakes society’.
Another commenting on Facebook referred to a previous rodent infestation at The Duston School’s secondary campus site. The building closed on November 2, 2017, after ‘a number of rats were spotted’ – headteacher Mr Strickland stated at the time.
Lauren Harvey wrote: ‘Typical… it’s all gone downhill since the rat infestation.’
The school was forced to shut again just before the Christmas holidays in 2019, this time after a sickness and diarrhoea bug spread through the school with 400 children reported absent, according to the Northampton Chronicle.
False widow spiders are sometimes confused for black widows and they are mistakenly thought to be as dangerous as both have similar dark-coloured, round bodies
Having originated on the Canary Islands and Madeira, the noble false widow is now in the running to be one of the world’s most invasive species of spider, having made it parts of Europe, North and West Africa, California, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador. Pictured: sightings of noble false widow spiders in the UK, as recorded by the British Arachnological Society
False widow spiders are sometimes confused for black widows and they are mistakenly thought to be as dangerous as both have similar dark-coloured, round bodies, according to the Natural History Museum
The species’ scientific name is the genus Steatoda, which is found across the Americas, Asia and Europe. Of six sub-species, three can be found in the UK – mainly in the south of England.
The noble false widow is the most commonly reported in the UK, with its webs usually suspended at least 1.5 metres off the ground to allow the spiders to hunt flying insects. In homes they often prefer to skulk in kitchens and conservatories.
Although several people have been hospitalised after bites, false widow spiders’ venom is not lethal unlike the true Black Widow spider – which can be fatal especially to the young and elderly.
In Duston School’s message, which was sent at 7.46pm in the evening, Mr Strickland wrote: ‘Due to a suspected outbreak of False Black Widow Spiders, we are regrettably having to close both phases of the school to all pupils and staff tomorrow (Wednesday) to allow the situation to be assessed and for the school to be cleaned.
‘A decision regarding the re-opening of the school will be made following an update tomorrow and this will be communicated to you accordingly.
‘I cannot apologise enough for the inconvenience that this may cause you, especially in terms of organising child care arrangements.
‘However, the health and safety of the school community must come first and foremost.
‘Work will be set for all of our pupils to complete at home via Microsoft Teams.’
Despite having become one of the most common arachnids in many urban parts of the UK, the exact health threat they posed has long been a subject of debate. Experts from the National University of Ireland, Galway, however, have shown that their venom can trigger reactions similar to those seen with true black widow bites. Pictured: a finger swollen by a painful bite
Two weeks ago, another Northampton school was also forced to close at short notice following a suspected false widow spider outbreak.
Students at Malcolm Arnold Academy in Northampton were sent home on September 17 after the spider was sighted.
At its most recent Ofsted inspection in 2021, The Duston School received an overall rating of ‘Good’.
In a message on The Duston School’s website, headteacher Mr Strickland says that ‘learning here has never been more exciting’ and refers to its mantra of ‘knowledge is power’.
He wrote: ‘ I also firmly believe, as a parent myself, that if something is not good enough for my children then it certainly is not good enough for yours. As a parent your children are central to your life and, as a school, they carry just as much importance to us.
‘Our core aim is to help students climb the tree of knowledge so they can access University, higher education, employment or an apprenticeship and be the very best edit of themselves. All students are inspired to Dream – Believe – Achieve.
‘Our facilities are truly outstanding, including extensive sports grounds, a swimming pool and state of the art purpose-built curriculum suites, including a designated Sixth Form area.’
MailOnline has contacted the Duston School, school facilities contractor Amey and Northamptonshire County Council, which has responsibility for the safety and maintenance of the school, for comment.
What is the false widow spider and what to do if you get bitten
False widow spiders are distinctive for their shiny, black flesh, bulbous bodies, thick legs and skull-like patterns.
Millions of false widows, Britain’s most venomous spider, have been found across the UK and the population is believed to be growing.
The species has a brown bulbous abdomen with cream markings that look like a skull. They have long legs and can reach about 15mm in size.
Also known as steatoda nobilis, the spider is frequently confused for the black widow, which has deadly venom.
The false widow was first spotted in the UK in Torquay in 1879, and it is thought that it may have made its way to these shores from Madeira or the Canary Islands in a shipment of bananas.
The Natural History Museum says that warmer summers mean the spider is spreading northwards through the UK, having previously been found mainly in southern England.
If bitten, wash the bite area thoroughly with soap and water to prevent infection
IF YOU GET BITTEN…
The first thing you should do is wash the area thoroughly with soap and water to prevent infection – and don’t scratch, as if you break the skin there’s more chance for bacteria to get in.
Cover bites with a plaster and apply an antihistamine sting cream to calm any inflammation or itching. Any redness, pain or swelling should subside after three days.
Be alert to potential signs of infection, such as weeping blisters or painful swelling, that continue to get worse after a few days. If this happens, seek advice from your GP.
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