NEWS
26/03/2020 16:30 GMT | Updated 26/03/2020 18:14 GMT

These Schools Are Making Vital Protective Equipment For Hospitals As Coronavirus Pressure Builds

Across the country, schools with sophisticated technology departments are manufacturing PPE to help health professionals cope with a critical lack of kit.

Updated: See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak

Frontline NHS staff need as much protective equipment as possible to protect them from the potential deadly effects of coronavirus

And as the government and military scramble to ensure hospitals are well-stocked, their efforts have been bolstered by some unlikely back-up.

Across the country, schools with sophisticated technology departments have put their resources to good use after being forced to close their gates, producing vital oxygen masks, respirators and breath shields for hospital workers.

Sevenoaks School in Kent is using 3D printing to make the equipment, focusing on comfort for doctors and nursing staff who often have to wear them for hours on end.

Head of technology Alex Colenso told HuffPost UK: “We want to do our bit to support the NHS in any way we can.

“We have four 3D printers in the technology department, which are currently being used to build prototype respirators and masks. So far, five test masks have been produced and are being tested, and we are waiting to hear if they are viable, or if amendments need to be made.

“The production process is very straightforward.  It only needs one teacher from the technology department to volunteer at a time, so social distancing can be maintained.

“We’re also hoping to show students the production process in action by live streaming it as part of a virtual technology class now that we have switched to distance learning.”

Trent College
Trent College students making PPE for their local hospital before it shut and social distancing rules were introduced across the UK

Sevenoaks has joined forces with its local healthcare network so it can find out first-hand what is needed where. As well as manufacturing masks, they have also donated 600 pairs of safety goggles to GPs and other healthcare workers in the area.

Cat Davison, the school’s director of service and social impact, said: “As the Covid-19 pandemic has developed, it has been inspiring to see our pupils, parents, staff and community partners reaching out to others.

“It’s clear that everyone is recognising the power of small acts of kindness, individual gestures of support, and personal and collective attempts to connect with our community.

“Part of this is following and spreading understanding of current government advice. We’ve created a team of staff volunteers and we are working with Sevenoaks District Council to assist local people who need support.”

Sixth-formers at Nottingham’s Trent College have developed a virus protection shield for medical staff carrying out eye examinations at Queen’s Medical Centre – one of the largest in the country.  

And in Taunton, King’s College has produced clear breath protection shields for microscopes using their design and technology laser cutters – essential for protecting those examining samples from potential infection.  Orders for the equipment have already been placed by the nearby Musgrove Park Hospital.

 

It’s really great to be able to assist our health professionals in some way... I'm proud to have done something to helpTechnician Ross Friend, King's College, Taunton

Design and technology technician Ross Friend said: “It’s really great to be able to assist our health professionals in some way, even if it is only something like providing them with an additional level of personal protective equipment. I’m proud to have done something to help.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock has called on companies able to help supply the NHS to do their bit and said millions of protective items have been delivered to trusts across the country in recent days.

Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, of which all three schools are members, said their efforts have been “amazing”.

She told HuffPost UK: “It’s so uplifting to hear that teachers and pupils across the country have been focusing their minds and their efforts on supporting our fantastic NHS staff at such a difficult time for everyone.

“I’ve also been heartened to hear about independent schools lending technology and support to other schools, as well as donating to foodbanks and supporting their local communities. It’s crucial that we all do whatever we can to help in the fightback against coronavirus.”

Other schools that want to join the effort can learn about 3D printing on the Hack The Pandemic forum online, where users can share tips and information.