PPE - Design and Technology teachers we salute you, but the job is not done

Published 11th April 2020

These are such difficult times. Over the last ten days, our community has mobilised, stepped up and as I have pointed out to several journalists who have approached us for telephone conversations and updates, has pretty much practised what we preach. The needs thrown up by this pandemic present design and engineering challenges that require an open and analytical approach to problem-solving, design and manufacture; as teachers of design and technology, that’s our bread and butter, it’s quite simply what we do!

The scale of mobilisation has been quite simply astonishing. We are doing what we can as your professional association to collect detail of schools participating in making PPE, as at the end of all this there is a case study that needs to be written and presented to those in positions of power and authority. Ryan Ball has put a Google form on social media; please take a moment to fill this in, we will collate all data and will make sure that your efforts are recognised. I genuinely believe that when this is all over, the world will not simply return to where it was before, and the real value of our subject will be a lot harder to question.

Teachers, school leaders and industry have come together on this topic in a way that I find hard to recall in my 33 years in education. The desire to ‘do the right thing and to help others’ is an overwhelming human response that transcends politics, ideology and even sheer exhaustion.

 As previously reported, over a week ago, we partnered with the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering and approached the government for their urgent support. Over this time, the ‘ask’ to the government has changed as needs require; we have received email responses, but to date no offers of assistance. The time to analyse what could have been managed more effectively and how this crisis could have been better controlled will come later; for now, we simply need to continue to help as best we can.

It looks like we will have at least one more week where our efforts will be required. The government has assured front line workers that they are doing all in their power to get safety equipment to surgeons, doctors, nurses, care workers and other clinical workers with immediate effect. Yet, my inbox is this morning filled with requests from clinicians seeking urgent assistance. This was always a stopgap movement; we will work so long as there is a clear need, as soon as government meets the demand we will step away, it is clear that as I write the job is not done.

Over the last week we have:

  • Partnered with 3D Crowd who are delivering an order of over 39,000 PPE shields to NHS Trusts and others this weekend.
  • Through the 3D Crowd network, we now have teacher coordinators in every major city, an invaluable system for communication and for assessing and meeting local need.
    We have worked with our colleagues at CLEAPSS to adjust their guidance, making it easier for individual schools to get actively involved.
  • We have worked hard, but as yet unsuccessfully, to engage government in supporting our efforts.
  • We have also worked to narrow down the plethora of designs that have emerged nationally, to a small number of tried and tested iterations that we are happy to recommend, now available on our website.
  • We have also followed up leads, created by design and technology teachers, to speed up the manufacturing process through partnering with industry leaders willing to make their time, resources and advanced machinery available to our cause. 

Having used this morning to take a breath and assess where we stand and how we can put our efforts to best use next week, it appears that we pretty much have the manufacturing process nailed in most schools. The priorities for the coming week now lie in:

  • Making sure that we order the logistics to get the materials to schools who are running out PVC, Polypropylene and other essential resources. We cannot deliver to every school but can probably get materials to area coordinators who can then distribute.
  • Work with manufacturers that have stepped forward with offers of assistance to try to speed up the manufacturing process providing greater numbers to where it is most needed.
  • Work to collect central requests from NHS Trusts and others who have urgent need of this equipment, thus matching production with demand (accepting that many of you are reaching out to local practitioners through social media and are making a substantial positive impact in your communities).
  • I must admit that I have made my last approach to the government. I want to work closely with them, it makes sense; but at the same time, I do not have any more time to send countless emails that are then ignored, we will work without them if needs be.

If I have missed anything and you need to contact us, please email info@data.org.uk detailing your name, contact details (a mobile number if possible) your position and the school or organisation where you work, we will follow up all enquiries, but please be patient, these are incredibly busy times for all of us.

In the meantime, keep doing what you are doing. I have never been prouder of our community; you are amazing!

Stay safe,

Tony Ryan
Chief Executive Officer

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