Schools have been answering the urgent call for more protective equipment for frontline NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic by using their design and technology workshops to make shields and masks.
As communities across the UK pull together to fight the outbreak, school staff have been eager to help in any way they can.
Doing his bit to help, the head of design and technology at Uppingham School in Rutland, Clive Simmons, has spearheaded a project to produce essential face visors for NHS staff, using laser-cutting equipment at the school.
And, to help ramp up production, Mr Simmons set up a JustGiving page to raise money for materials and to buy more equipment.
“My target was to raise £500 to make around 1,500 masks,” he said.
“However, the response has been incredible, and after just three days we have raised more than £7,000.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of our community and friends of the school – their support will help us to make a huge difference to local healthcare teams.”
The first batches of visors are being given to North West Anglia NHS Trust, as well as GPs and nursing homes in Rutland and Lincolnshire.
With 100 face shields already made and sent out to hospitals, and more than £2,000 raised in donations, the production line will be ramped up by teacher Wendy Hayes, who is leading the project.
Mrs Hayes has been making the visors using a public computer-aided design software programme and a 3D printer in her classroom.
The school has been inundated with requests for help from all over the country after it posted photographs of Mrs Hayes’ work on its Facebook page and hopes to liaise with other design and technology departments in the UK to make sure as many requests as possible are met.
Mrs Hayes told the Evening Standard: “On my own, I initially created 36 in a day, which I photographed and were posted to the Park House School Facebook page and Twitter, and since then it’s gone crazy.
“One thing I think it would be great to let the NHS and frontline workers know, is if they are struggling to get hold of the visors, they should get in touch with the design and technology department at their local secondary school, as they may find that they are also already doing this, and can potentially provide a stop gap until the masks can be procured through official channels.
“We’re all trying to produce as quickly as possible, and so many other D&T departments are doing their bit.”
Park House School’s headteacher Derek Peaple said: “I am absolutely in awe of what Wendy is doing.
“It epitomises a very special commitment to our local and wider community, and the extraordinary work being undertaken by our health and care workers.”
Elsewhere, also using the skills of its hard-working teachers, Thomas Adams School in Wem, Shropshire, plans to make 100 face shields a day in its design and technology department.
The first batch is heading to the respiratory ward at Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital, where the school also donated more than 60 pairs of safety glasses and science goggles.
The teachers said they will continue to make as many as possible, with the help of donated materials.
Headteacher Mark Cooper said: “This a brilliant use of staff skills and our school equipment to help key workers who are facing exceptionally challenging situations on a daily basis.”
In London, Marc Rogers, head of design and technology at Bancroft’s School in Woodford Green, has also put his skills to work to produce 32 visors a day.
He has even got requests directly from parents of children at the school who work for the NHS.
“I found prototypes of the various components online and decided to build the Prusa MK 3 developed by the 3D printing company Prusa,” he said.
“Each 3D printed frame takes one and a half hours to complete, so to make best use of time we set the 3D printing in stacks of four overnight. The visors can then be constructed the next morning.”
The visors are placed in sealed bags for three days after they have been manufactured to avoid any virus being passed on, before being picked up and delivered to the NHS.
Like other schools which are fundraising, Mr Rogers is worried he might run out of materials and has asked if local businesses can provide spare any supplies for the initiative.
“We will continue to do this as long as we have the resources,” he said. “We do foresee that souring the materials will become a problem.”
Schools and non-essential businesses remain closed as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK hit 51,608 on Monday, with the death toll reaching 5,373.