A Scottish council has been forced to spend over £12,000 to date tackling a bedbug infestation in one of its primary schools – a problem that it first began treating back in 2016.
The bill for tackling the bedbug infestation at St Bride’s Primary in Glasgow – which is in the Glasgow Southside constituency of Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon – has been uncovered by a Tes Scotland freedom of information request.
The FoI shows that the school has been sprayed on multiple occasions since 2016 and that these treatments were the biggest costs incurred by the council, with £9,700 spent so far.
Background: School’s ‘four-year bedbug infestation ordeal’
The latest spray treatment at St Bride’s – which includes Govanhill, one of the poorest areas in Glasgow, in its catchment area – was scheduled to take place before the summer break started at the beginning of this month. The school will be sprayed again before pupils and teachers return in August.
Over £1,500 has also been spent installing lockers for teachers and other staff to store their personal belongings, after the parasites spread to the home of one member of staff who had to be compensated for the damage caused.
The school now also has its own washing machine and tumble dryer – which cost the council just over £500.
The action plan drawn up by the council to tackle the problem states that these are to be used to wash children’s clothing and nightwear “as families don’t own their own machines”.
Support for learning workers – of which the school has eight – have been given up to five additional hours per week to undertake the additional cleaning duties, which also include the washing of the school’s dressing-up outfits, soft toys, PE bibs and soft furnishings.
St Bride’s battle with bedbugs came to light last month when media reports led to the issue being raised with Ms Sturgeon.
At First Minister's Questions, Scottish Conservative MSP Annie Wells told Ms Sturgeon: “A school has been forced to take desperate action to eliminate a four-year bedbug infestation ordeal.
“Kids are getting rashes; pest-control teams are visiting every few months; and staff have had to destroy their home furniture. First minister, what century is this?”
Ms Sturgeon replied: “This is an issue in different parts of Glasgow.
“From my constituency interest in the case that Annie Wells cites, I know the intensive work that is being done by the council.
“I speak to council officials regularly on these matters and about the other issues that are raised in this area of my constituency and I know that intensive work is going on.
“All of us have to encourage those involved in this to follow all the guidelines so that the work that is being done has the best chance of succeeding.”
Tes Scotland asked the council if any other Glasgow schools were grappling with bedbug infestations but it said St Bride’s Primary was the only school that had been dealing with an issue over the past 12 months.
Back in 2017, Dr Heather Lynch, a lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, wrote that some people in Govanhill had reconciled themselves to living “side by side” with bedbugs. She said that once these insects became endemic they were “effectively impossible to remove” and that bedbugs, like many insects, had “developed resistance to the extermination chemicals”.