On the final day of school in March 2020, the headteacher of Hinchley Wood School, Esher, looked out at the staff and pupils in assembly. In the stunned silence, under the cloud of realisation that the school was to be shut indefinitely, he posed the questions: “How will you play your part in this crisis? How will it define you?”
School leaders across the country have shown that they are determined to stand with their school community by looking after vulnerable learners and the children of critical workers.
Yet they will not stop here with their dedication and strong leadership.
It has become increasingly evident that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is desperately needed for frontline NHS staff. Headteachers across Surrey and London are supporting NHS workers through the donation of goggles from their school science labs. They know that the goggles could be potentially lifesaving to NHS staff.
Hinchley Wood School reached out to schools in the area and every single headteacher responded positively with donations of goggles, gloves and even stock from their tuck shops to aid their colleagues in the NHS.
State and Independent schools across Surrey, Kingston, Richmond and beyond heeded the call to provide essential PPE and their rapid response has been overwhelming. In just a short amount of time they have collected 8,500 pairs of goggles in order to pass them on to healthcare providers. So far, they have delivered more than 7,500 pairs of goggles, plus gloves and visors to 16 hospitals around Surrey and London.
Schools do not know if they will be reimbursed or if funding will be made available to them once this crisis is over, but this is clearly not at the forefront of their minds. Their focus is on community, the NHS and what they can do to help in these unprecedented times.
The feedback from consultants across the region has been heartwarming and gratifying. One consultant responded to the donations by saying, “These are coming just at the right time. Thank you so much! You cannot imagine what a difference your donations have made – you have definitely restored our faith in human kindness! Our doctors and nurses could not believe that they could now have their own pair of goggles, as the supply has been so intermittent and, as I told you, we had just run out of visors (disposable). We are so grateful to you and your colleagues – a more necessary response I cannot imagine.”
This appeal is not about pointing out any failures in NHS staff receiving PPE. It is simply a realisation that goggles and other equipment are currently lying unused in closed schools and NHS frontline staff are in desperate need. It is a rapid response to a rapidly changing world under the spread of this virus.
While schools continue to play their part in the community, we return to those questions that were posed by Hinchley Wood’s headteacher, Ben Bartlett: How will you play your part in this crisis? How will it define you?