Close to 2,000 masks have come off the 'Vandyke Visor' production line in Leighton Buzzard with no let up in demand

The 'Vandyke Visor' production line is approaching 2,000 masks in just a few short weeks as it continues to produce vital personal protective equipment for frontline staff.

Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 5:53 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 5:54 pm

At the start of April the LBO reported how the design technology team at Vandyke Upper School in Leighton Buzzard had started manufacturing masks after a parent of a student had initially contacted them saying they worked in a local pharmacy, needed protection, and didn't know what to do.

As a result, Jacqui Hargreaves set to work with her husband Steve (a fellow Vandyke DT teacher) and daughter Alice at their home workshop equipped with a laser cutter and 3D printer, with each visor individually packaged.

Similar requests started to flood in from the town and further afield, but, thankfully, offers of help with materials and financial donations did to - including from the Rotary Club of Leighton-Linslade - which has allowed the Hargreaves to continue, and increase, production. They have now supplied hospitals, care homes, pharmacies, funeral directors and community workers.

The Hargreaves have produced nearly 2,000 visors now

Jacqui said: "I have an underlying health condition which meant once schools closed I could no longer go into school and do my bit there. When we were both stuck at home we decided we had the skills to be able to help and do something."

She said an estimated 150,000 visors had been produced by school DT departments across the country, a vital contribution due to the much-publicised shortage of PPE for frontline workers.

Steve added: "We have increased the capability from the initial 50 a day, up to about 120 a day. We're being approached continually by local people in need who aren't able to get the equipment they need, so we are responding to that and doing our best to help as many people as we can."

And Jacqui said, weeks later, demand remains strong. "There has been no let up in requirement for these visors," she said. "At the moment there still seems to be a big shortage of good quality PPE and we are hoping we can fill the gap a little bit."

Masked supplied to the ambulance service

Having seen the team's story and their efforts to provide visors for the pharmacy, Rotary contacted Jacqui to see if they could assist and has committed £1,300 to fund significant additional raw materials, as well as open up an opportunity with Bray Plastics of Leighton Buzzard for enhanced laser cutter capability which has meant production has risen.

In the process of working with Vandyke, Rotary also became aware of a similar project being undertaken at Linslade School and have made contact with a view to offering appropriate support for this visor project as well.

Simon Marshall, chairman of Leighton Linslade Rotary Task Group said: “The work being undertaken by both Vandyke and Linslade schools is truly outstanding and is helping to keep key staff safe when working in the community, with visors being delivered to A&E, care homes, pharmacies and other key locations during a critical time in the fight against COVID 19.

"The Rotary Club of Leighton Linslade is pleased to be able to support both Vandyke and Linslade schools and will continue to work with both teams to maximise the benefit to our local community from these fantastic projects."

Additionally the Rotary Club’s Task Group are working on other local initiatives with a view to delivering practical support in the community when it is needed and is reminding any organisation that if they feel they could benefit from Rotary support in these unprecedented times then they should contact the club via its Facebook page or via [email protected]If you want to help the production of 'Vandyke Visors' email [email protected]. Watch the video at the top of this article to see more about the Hargreaves' work.