Schools produce equipment for the NHS to help COVID-19 patients

15 April 2020

Schools and colleges across the NCCE network have been leaping into action to help out with the response to the Coronavirus crisis, as Victoria Temple reports.

For computing teachers across the UK, the Easter holiday has been busy. Schools and colleges have been swinging into action to produce face shields and other PPE for the NHS and social care sector using their 3D printers and laser cutters.

Teachers and technicians at NCCE Computing Hub schools are doing their bit, including Carmel College in Darlington, Harrogate Grammar School in North Yorkshire, and Park House School in Newbury.


Chris Hillidge is Director of STEM at The Challenge Academy Trust and they’re using 3D printers and snorkels to help save lives.

He leads the NCCE Computing Hub for Merseyside and Warrington and teaches at Beamont Collegiate Academy. The school is home to Fablab Warrington, which can take an idea from a ‘piece of paper to market,’ with its 3D printers and computer numerical-controlled cutting machine.

“We’ve worked with lots of companies before. We’ve produced medical devices in the past, mainly as prototypes for people setting up businesses and worked with inventors and others. We have got a good track record in thinking of innovative ways of using our technology,” said Chris.

“When we saw the situation developing with the coronavirus pandemic, we thought, what can we do?

“We had seen that in Italy some makers had produced a valve which worked to convert a snorkelling mask from superstore Decathlon into a breathing apparatus similar to a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

“So, we made some on our 3D printer and shared our prototype on LinkedIn and Twitter.”

Help welcomed

The response was overwhelming.  Chris was contacted by Greater Manchester’s Critical Care team and met with the lead consultant at Bolton Royal ICU.

“He agreed that it would be medically useful and asked if we could produce hundreds.

“It’s not a ventilator but it will be useful, and it saved lives in Italy.”

Chris also put a social media appeal for more masks and, within an hour he was talking to the CEO of Decathlon UK who is now releasing stock of the masks to NHS trusts across the UK

Now Chris’ ‘manufacturing team’ are making the switch to face-shields, as PPE for medical staff, mainly to be used by GPs in the area.

“We contacted all schools in the area and asked if they could get involved. Now we’re working with 15 schools and colleges across the Greater Manchester areas to co-ordinate the production of face-shields.

“From a standing start we’ll soon be producing 250 face-shields a day, and we’re coordinating production and distribution.

“It’s been a phenomenal effort by schools across Warrington.

“We’ve all got relatives and friends working in the NHS and we know there’s a real need for equipment. If we can help in any way we can, we will.”