Sutton Coldfield’s secondary schools have joined forces during the coronavirus crisis – to make more than 1,200 pieces of vital PPE equipment for NHS staff on the frontline.
The remarkable link-up between seven local schools began at Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, where head of DT Skye Bowen, aided by technician Andrea Gregory, decided to make equipment for NHS medics and frontline care workers. Their original plan was to manufacture plastic clips which make surgical masks more comfortable to wear.
After making the first successful batch, Vesey headteacher Dominic Robson reached out to other local schools for support, calling for supplies of PVC and help in the manufacturing process.
Straight away Arthur Terry, John Willmott, Plantsbrook, Fairfax, Stockland Green and the Streetly Academy backed the idea, offering to lend a hand and donate materials.
Soon, the schools were working together to make vital face visors for frontline NHS staff too.
Donations of PVC came from local companies Fosco Hayes Hurley Limited and Qube Environmental, while Old Veseyan Aaron Dane donated enough polypropylene to enable the manufacture of 500 visors. Vesey PE teacher Alex Davies has also provided a 25-metre roll of PVC to the project.
As a result Bishop Vesey – working with Arthur Terry, John Wilmott, Fairfax, The Streetly Academy, Stockland Green and Plantsbrook – has so far produced 1214 pieces of PPE, which have been distributed to frontline staff at Heartlands Hospital, Extra Care Retirement Village in New Oscott, Good Hope Maternity, Sandwell Hospital, Walsall Manor Hospital, Lichfield Ambulance Service, St Martins Nursing Home, Saddlers Health Centre and Wyndley Grange Nursing Home.
Headteacher Mr Robson said: “The current adversity we all face has been an education in so many ways. I am very proud of how the Vesey family, including our fabulous Design Technology team, has responded in a caring, positive and innovative manner to support our frontline workers.”
Bishop Vesey’s staff have now appealed for donations of more polypropylene to make even more. Anyone wo can support Sutton schools by buying 0.7mm or 0.8m sheet materials, should email S.Bowen@bishopveseys.bham.sch.uk.
At Fairfax, Head of DT Rachael Lyn-Kew, who is due to leave this Easter, teamed up with new Head of DT Samantha Pardoe to use the school’s laser cutter to trim pieces of polypropylene for the visor project, before delivering them to Bishop Vesey. The school has also donated supplies of safety goggles to frontline workers.
Head of Academy Deborah Bunn said: “Community spirit is so very important to Fairfax and we absolutely wanted to be involved to support the frontline NHS and care sector.”
At Plantsbrook, the school’s Head of DT Hannah Dudley and technician Sheila Nicholls have used the school’s equipment to create hundreds of headbands for face visors from material provided by Bishop Vesey.
Plantsbrook headteacher Tracy Campbell said: “We have been pleased to be involved in this incredible project, working together with other schools. We have many strong links already and this has shown how we can collaborate for the good of the local community.”
The printer, which was bought for the school by Sutton Coldfield Rotary Club, is usually used by engineering students to create parts for their electric sports cars.
But A-level student Archie Delacroix Humphreys, working with his mum Laura, used details supplied by one of the Midlands’ automotive giants to create a surgical mask design, which they emailed through to physics teacher Dean Batty to feed into the school’s printer.
Mr Batty explained: “Archie said he had come up with a design to help NHS staff wear face masks. Before being a teacher I was a crime scene examiner for 23 years, including in Afghanistan, and I know that wearing these masks for prolonged periods is very uncomfortable and causes additional fatigue.
“Archie emailed me the files and last week I went into school to print an initial test batch of 15. At the end of that day Archie and his Mum collected the parts, observing the social distancing rules, and delivered them to Good Hope Hospital.”
Arthur Terry DT Subject Leader Matthew Kinsella has also been assembling face visors at home, using components made on the school’s printers.
Samantha Kibble, associate headteacher, Arthur Terry School, said: “I am extremely proud of the way our schools and communities are pulling together for this shared cause. It is wonderful to see such kindness, support and generosity students, staff and families shining through. A huge thank you to everybody – with special thanks to our incredible health care workers on the frontline. We are indebted to you all.”
John Willmott School’s Head of DT Jeff Lane has joined the team at Bishop Vesey to lend his expertise and help manufacture to visors. As well as collaborating in the face visor project, John Willmott has also donated boxes of unused goggles to Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital Trust, as well as supporting a local GP’s practice that had completely run out of hand sanitiser and protective goggles.
“Wherever there is a human in need, there is an opportunity for kindness and to make a difference. We were happy to do our part,” John Willmott headteacher Tracey Peters said.
Caring staff at The Streetly Academy went above and beyond to make hundreds of vital face masks to help NHS workers on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Design Technology department at the academy had seen designs for the face masks shared on social media, so when they received a request from St Mary’s Hospice in Birmingham to make 50 masks they sprang into action.
Head of DT Mark Roberts said: “We knew we had the equipment and materials and felt it was our duty to help the NHS and local care homes.”
Mark quickly got permission from headteacher Billy Downie to go into school during lockdown and experiment with the materials at hand.
After a few failed attempts, a successful face mask was produced. Within a week Mark had been joined by colleagues Richard Godfrey and Greg Fowler, making a batch of 108 masks before their materials ran out.
The team shared their work on social media and were overwhelmed with the public’s response to their efforts – and received more requests for masks. The team were able to provide items to John Taylor Hospice in Erdington, Willowbrook House, in Aldridge, Veronia House Nursing Home, Rushall Care home, Leighswood Care Home, Rushall Pharmacy and Birmingham Mind – but their materials were now exhausted.
And pupils at Stockland Green School have also been sewing scrubs bags for local hospitals. The bags, which are made of 100% cotton, make life easier for tired NHS staff because they can be put straight into a washing machine to be washed with their contents inside.
Headteacher Marie George said: “Our students and staff have done us proud with their amazing efforts to support the NHS during this national crisis. It is an honour to be able to support our wonderful front-line healthcare professionals and we are so grateful to them for all that they do. I am really heartened by the way all our schools and communities have responded – putting others first and working collectively to help those in need. These are the attributes we hope to instil in our children and young people as we teach them to be responsible, kind and compassionate citizens.”
Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell congratulated local schools on working together during the crisis.
“Our schools are already doing a fantastic job in looking after the children of key workers and providing tasks for students to study from home. It is even more impressive that they are also playing their part to support the NHS by making a providing PPE.
“We have always benefitted from a close-knit education community in Sutton and during this crisis they have really pulled together. We should all be proud of our schools’ response.”
“Our schools are already doing a fantastic job in looking after the children of key workers and providing tasks for students to study from home. It is even more impressive that they are also playing their part to support the NHS by making a providing PPE,”
– andrew mitchell mp