20th April 2020 — A Tonbridge School team has produced more than 2,500 protective masks for those on the front line in the fight against Covid-19. Led by the school’s DT Department, the mask-manufacturing operation has run virtually non-stop for the past month. The masks have been distributed to workers in various parts of the country, including those in hospitals, GP practices, assessment centres, care homes and even an opticians.
The school has been making approximately 200 masks every day, with a team of more than 20 staff members, students, family and friends all helping with what is now a full-scale operation of manufacturing and delivering masks. They work on a shift basis, generally from 9am to 3pm. One DT teacher drives the laser-cutting machine, while volunteers help with cutting velcro, using staple guns and assembling the masks.
Will Biddle, Design Technology Teacher and Tonbridge Housemaster, responded to the challenge after he was approached by a GP, who is the parent of one of the boys at the school. He said: “Thanks to a great team effort and lots of volunteers, we have put together an efficient and flexible manufacturing system, and so we’ve been able to respond rapidly to requests for masks. We are thrilled to have been able to meet all the requests as they have come in and we’ve kept on top of demand.”
Will and his team also set up a website, make-more-masks.com, which has step-by-step manufacturing information, CAD files and usage guidance, so that other people, and especially schools, can start making their own and contribute to what is now a nationwide effort. “The masks make use of materials and equipment that DT departments in schools probably already have, and it has been encouraging to see schools and small business across the country doing their own manufacturing,” Will added.
In addition, Tonbridge School has donated stock from its Barton Science Centre to help the NHS in these desperate times. More than 450 pairs of safety spectacles, 88 pairs of safety goggles and ten boxes of surgical gloves have been sent to hospitals, surgeries, GP hubs and almshouses across Kent and Sussex. There has also been a huge response on social media, with staff in hospitals and care homes – ranging from Chestnut Lodge in Tonbridge to Heron Hill in Kendal, Cumbria – thanking the team for providing a welcome boost to existing PPE equipment. One Facebook message simply reads: “Very well done Tonbridge. From a grateful NHS consultant.”