April 14, 2020

School-led partnership produces 6,000 face shields in first week

In just over a week Leighton Park has become the centre of a huge face shield manufacturing operation. The School has established a network of 19 manufacturing partners to increase capacity and has so far provided 6,000 face shields to 79 organisations at the frontline of the Covid-19 response. This includes 8 hospitals and 18 GP surgeries. All of this has been made possible by the huge generosity of the public, with over £17,000 having been donated for materials through a GoFundMe page: bit.ly/LP4NHS.

Mark Smith, Head of DT at Leighton Park and with a background in biomedical engineering, enthused: “At the moment we’ve got the material to produce tens of thousands, we’ve got people running phones. Our IT department has set up phones in our workshop. We’ve got a board of how many we’ve got to produce, who we’ve got to deliver to – so a full logistics hub.”

16 other schools have joined the partnership, as well as the University of Reading and two local businesses outside the education sector, Neal’s Export Packaging Ltd, in Silchester, and rLAB, a community workshop space. School partners include Denefield School, Edgbarrow School, Prospect School, Reading Blue Coats, Shiplake College, Holme Grange School, The Forest School, Brackenhale School, Waingels College, The Bulmershe School, Luckley House, Warriner School, Little Heath, Ranelagh and St Joseph’s College.

The response from NHS and frontline staff has been touching and heartfelt. It has been a privilege to play a small part in supporting them in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Andrew Haydon an A&E Nurse stated, “Thank you for your support of Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust with these masks! It really means a lot that people in the community are pulling together!”

Seona Douglas, Executive Director of Social Care and Health Reading Borough Council, commented: “Fantastic contribution you are making to my staff in RBC working on the front line. I am so grateful for your contribution. Thank you so much to Helena Olmos one of the PAs in Adult Social Care who saw this on Facebook. Thank you Thank you Thank you.”

The addition of the University of Reading and the two local businesses has been a game changer, ramping up production with high spec machinery.

Matt Bargus is the 3D CAD designer at Neal’s Export Packaging, an organisation specialising in creating bespoke packaging solutions for industry. Matt’s CNC machine can cut out an entire polypropylene sheet of headbands in just 11 and a half minutes, a job which takes the Leighton Park laser cutter an hour. “I’ve perfected my technique now,” laughed Matt, “Nuances make a big difference when you’re working a repetitive process.”

The project has given so many people a meaningful way of contributing and pulling together. Mark explained why the project meant so much to him and fits so well with the School’s ethos: “My brother and sister-in-law are both healthcare workers, they’re all frontline staff, so to feel I can do something has been brilliant.”

“We’re a Quaker school so it fits very much with our ethos – which is ‘let your life speak’ so doing something you can do and offering it up to the community.”

Particular mention should also go to Myles Nash, Adrian Stewart and Sally Pearce. These residential members of staff have been at the heart of the operation. Mark concluded: “It’s testament to the team here how everyone has done their bit to make it happen – if it were just a one man band like I started with we would be producing tiny numbers.”

To enable this partnership to produce more face shields please visit the GoFundMe page: bit.ly/LP4NHS.

A&E nurse wearing face shield

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