Haringey school pests many and varied

MICE, rats, and a whole host of creepy crawlies may sound like the stuff of nightmares, but they are also among the pests that have been found in the borough’s schools over the last four years.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that since 2007, Haringey Council’s pest control service has been called out to school premises a total of 58 times to deal with problems involving everything from rats to squirrels and cockroaches.

The pest problem in local schools could be even worse as headteachers are given the option of hiring private contractors to deal with their problems when they arrive.

Though the details of the investigation might make most of us squirm, pest control expert Tony Bond – who runs his business, EPS from Crouch End – says people should not be surprised.

“I have contact with quite a number of schools and they all have their problems intermittently, but no more or less than any other large building,” he said.

Since 2007, the level of calls from schools to the council’s pest department has actually reduced by almost 75 per cent, but it is unclear whether this is because the schools are getting cleaner or because they are opting to deal with private pest companies.

In 2007 the service was called to 25 incidents at schools, reducing to 15 visits in 2008, 11 in 2009 and pest controllers were called out just seven times this year at the time of going to press.

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However, a spokesman for the council refused to confirm which schools had suffered which problems, due to “client confidentiality”.

The biggest pests seem to be mice and rats, which have each caused 21 visits from the pest control service. Other creepy crawlies to have appeared in local schools include fleas, wasps and cockroaches.

More unusual pests have also caused problems, with experts being called in to deal with a bout of Pharaoh ants and in November one school called the exterminators out because of a problem with squirrels – the incident is still ongoing.

Mr Bond said the problems were not that unusual – but could be serious.

“I’ve never come across Pharaoh ants in a school before, but they are very difficult to get rid of. Generally they are found in residential properties and not in schools,” he said. “We get a lot of squirrel problems, making a mess in people’s lofts and eating cables – in worst case scenarios they can cause a fire. We actually deal with a lot of squirrel problems.”

Despite the results of the Freedom of Information request which may seem to suggest a lack of cleanliness in local schools, Mr Bond says this is not the case.

“Schools do have problems, but when you have a large building where there are lots of people and you generally have catering on site, you are going to have problems,” he said. “I have come across one or two schools which have very poor hygiene, but in most schools it’s not the case – it’s just a way of life. That’s urban living for you.”