Should first aid be taught to all school children?

Should all school children receive first aid training?

Until 12 February 2018, the Department for Education is actively consulting as to what should be included on the school curriculum for PSHE. The government is considering making part, or all, of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, mandatory from 2019 and there is a strong push to get first aid training included as an essential requirement.

The initial request is for one hour of age appropriate first aid training to be received by all school children every year. This is a token gesture but is a great start to empowering more children with these skills and hopefully empowering a whole generation with the skills and willingness to help in an emergency. We are way behind many other countries with woefully few people trained in these skills and our mediocre survival rates reflect this.

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation reported that; “Lives are needlessly lost to cardiac arrests every day because not enough people have the skills or confidence to perform CPR. But the simple measure of teaching all children these skills could save thousands of lives. All parties should now follow this example and commit to making CPR an integral part of every child’s education.” In Norway and Seattle where these skills are routinely taught in schools the survival for Cardiac Arrest in the community is far higher than the UK.

In the UK there are over 30,000 cardiac arrests a year outside of hospital, but less than one in ten victims of cardiac arrest survive to be discharged from hospital. Survival rates in the UK lag behind those in other developed countries and areas such as Norway, where the survival rate is reported to be around 25%, North Holland where the survival rate is around 21% and Seattle in the US where the survival rate is nearer 20%. CPR can double the chances of survival from out of hospital cardiac arrest. It is therefore vital that we equip more people with the skills, ability and confidence to help.

First Aid for Life already teach numerous highly engaging and informative first aid classes in schools and for groups of young people and the feedback is incredible. We also have tailored online training that pupils can complete during lessons or as homework and this can then be consolidated in a practical course. This is also a great option for the Duke of Edinburgh awards, babysitting, sports qualifications and just helping them to be more risk aware and look out for each other.

The UK is also one of very few EU Countries where First Aid is not an integral part of the driving qualification and this is another extremely important area to explore. Currently only 7 per cent of the UK population have the skills and confidence to carry-out basic first aid in an emergency and so something must be done to turn this around.

Wherever First Aid is taught, those training it should be suitably trained and have the experience and knowledge to talk engagingly around the subject and ideally have used their skills in the real world.

Without doubt, prompt, appropriate First Aid saves lives and the more people that are properly empowered with these skills the better. School children are a great age to absorb this vital information and really love learning it too.


By Emma Hammett

For more information on First Aid in Schools please read our article in the British Journal of School Nursing

British Heart Foundation Statistics can be found here

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