Top marks for ingenuity as Somerset schools rise to PPE challenge

Schools may be closed to most pupils during the Coronavirus pandemic – but they are using their skills and resources to help in the battle to protect frontline carers.

The Castle School in Taunton has started making protective visors, using laser cutters, and is working with Somerset County Council and Somerset Care to make sure the vital equipment reaches staff who are looking after some of Somerset’s most vulnerable residents.

The school has linked up with others including Heathfield in Taunton, Court Fields in Wellington, and Huish Episcopi, near Langport, while Custom Plastics in Wellington is helping with the supply of raw materials.

That has led to a surge in production with around 300 face shields being produced today (Tuesday) for care homes in the Taunton and Wellington area.

Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) is at a premium during the COVID-19 emergency so Castle Design and Technology technician Pat Keates was inspired to use equipment that was lying idle to start a production line.

Pat said; “The idea came from our Design and Technology teacher, Mrs Sonia Fishlock, who found a link on a teachers forum about making face shields. Sonia got in touch to tell me about it, and less than an hour later I was contacted by my son Chris Keates who works at Somerset Care.

“Chris had seen something similar and asked if we could help, so Sonia and I decided that we would attempt to make a prototype and go from there. We found a CAD file online, which we developed to make a prototype. Somerset Care were happy with what they saw, so we produced as many as we could in the time available – we’re now able to make between 120 and 140 of these per day.

“Having other schools on board has really made a huge difference and we are hoping to be up to 300-plus a day from today.”

Andrew Needham, Operations Director at Somerset Care, said: “On behalf of all our carers and residents, we are incredibly grateful to The Castle School for stepping in and providing this great solution at a time of need.  These products are going straight to our front-line carers for immediate use.

“There is huge demand for this product amongst all care providers in Somerset, and innovative solutions like this are crucial to ensure we keep people safe. Thank you to all the staff and pupils at the school for helping.”

Leader of Somerset County Council David Fothergill said: “Our schools are doing an incredible job, not only by supporting key workers whose children may need to be at school but now by producing vital protective equipment. We are so thankful for this wonderful support during this difficult time.”

The call is now going out for more Somerset schools – and manufacturers – to join the initiative if they can and keep the PPE supplies rolling. If you can help, please call the Somerset Coronavirus Support Helpline.

A single phone number is now available for anyone in Somerset who needs Coronavirus-related support from their councils. The Somerset Coronavirus Support Helpline number, 0300 790 6275, is now live and will make it easier for people access any local authority help they may need, including emotional support, in the current crisis.

A video of the production can be seen here: