Should First Aid Be Taught in Schools?

Schools ‘should teach how to save a life’, says a heart charity.

Life-saving skills include dealing with cardiac arrests and heart attacks, serious bleeding and choking.

A heart charity is calling on the government to include the teaching of life-saving skills in the national curriculum.

In a survey carried out by the British Heart Foundation, 73% of schoolchildren wanted to learn how to resuscitate someone and give first aid. More than 75% of teachers and parents also agreed it should be taught in schools.

The survey questioned 2,000 parents, a 1,000 children and 500 teachers. The BHF wants emergency life support skills to be taught as part of personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) lessons and alongside physical education, citizenship and science. Life-saving skills include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which can help someone who has had a cardiac arrest. It also covers how to deal with an unconscious person, serious bleeding, choking and heart attacks. Latest figures show that in 2007 around 100,000 people had a heart attack in England.

It is basically down to heads to set a curriculum which best meets the needs of their pupils.

A spokesman from the Department of Education said there was nothing stopping schools teaching these life-saving skills already.

“It’s down to heads to set a curriculum which best meets the needs of their pupils’’.

“We are carrying out a root and branch reform of the national curriculum to set out the essential academic knowledge that children need, while leaving schools free to decide how to teach it’ ’he went on to state that:-

“We know that high-quality PSHE is important – that’s why it will remain a compulsory part of the curriculum, but we trust teachers to design lessons to suit their pupils.”

Maura Gillespie, head of policy and public affairs at the BHF, said teaching these skills was crucial.

“Teaching young people how to save a life is as important as learning to read and write. They are skills which equip them for real situations they might face in their lives.”

The counter argument to this is that teachers already have quadruple the work they can effectively manage. Initiatives come from everywhere and although many are important, they do not magic new time in order to teach them. Even though these skills are vital, the government needs to look at completely streamlining the curriculum and the teacher time sapping paperwork. Also, children have different levels of maturity so how many will be able to cope in a real life emergency situation?

It is interesting to note that many countries already include basic first aid which is viewed as a simple procedure and all public should be expected to have good basic understanding. The foundation to first aid, includes responsibility about dangers to self and others, this then can start to pave the way in reducing several of the Health & Safety (H&S) restrictions, by each person taking more control.

In Norway children are being trained on water safety and CPR at an average age of 10. Children are probably best placed to be the ‘first’ aider on the scene, especially in the home, so it would be a very good decision to teach children what needs to be done.

I am a First Aid instructor in London and I agree to some degree on Kelly’s comments. Many people think you may be taken to court if you do something wrong and someone dies. This is not likely to happen, especially if you try your best to help someone and you do not do anything silly or you have not been taught. I advise everyone to please go on a one day first aid emergency course and learn the very simple life saving techniques. A heart attack casualty is more likely to die if you do nothing! But with CPR or use of an Automated External Defibrillator can save a person’s life.

Children in some schools were given instruction in CPR 20 years ago. Starting at a very basic level and increasing that knowledge as the child went through his/her school life. An essential tool, for everyday living, if only to put someone into the recovery position to maintain an airway. There have been recent case in Seattle USA in 2012 of a 13 year old boy saving a bus driver from a heart attack by performing CPR!

Back in 2009, St John’s Ambulance carried out a survey where more than 1,500 school children took part, of which 7/10 said they would not know to help in an emergency.

Surprisingly first aid is mandatory subject for Welsh and Northern Ireland pupils, but in England & Scotland it is merely an option within the curriculum. Although the government stated that they aimed to bring this into England by 2011, this still has not been completed. An estimated 400,000 young people are injured each year at school, showing the importance of this.

The amount of stories we see every day where a child has rescued or saved an individual by learning valuable first aid at school. This proves that teaching every child first-aid at school would save thousands of lives a year, while also reducing the waiting times at A&E departments, a top doctor has claimed.

In particular Dr Jennifer Devine, associate specialist in emergency medicine at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, has called on the Scottish government to make it compulsory for every child to be taught lifesaving skills at various stages throughout their schooling. As Devine stated, “Children should be taught four R’s rather than just three – reading, writing, arithmetic & CPR”.

Many people visit A&E each day and the majority of patients would not need to go to hospital if they knew basic first aid. The British Heart Foundation has also backed the call for first-aid skills to be taught to children as a part of the Curriculum for Excellence. A recent poll by the charity also found that 85% of teachers and 78% of parents back this idea.

Maize Parkinson, aged just 11, learnt basic first aid skills during lessons at Derby High School and put them to good use when her mum Rachel, dropped a scalding hot drink on her hand. Although the injury was not life or death, Maize knew enough to cool the burn under cold running water and remove her mum’s ring to stop swelling. She stayed calm throughout, proving that she has the confidence and the ability to act quickly in an emergency!

Then there is a teenager Murium Asim, who aged just 14 saved her grandfather’s life by recognising the symptoms of his heart attack and treating him until the paramedics arrived to take over.

And of course there is 13 year old Courtney Lanfear who gave her 3 year old brother, Lucas, CPR after he had a seizure in his cot, saving his little life!

All these children had undergone first aid training and were able to put their skills to good use in an emergency – something many adults could not do.

Children are less likely to experience the ‘Bystander Effect’ – the more people there are at the scene of an accident, the less likely anyone is to help as they all expect someone else to take charge. So if you faint, have a heart attack or fall and break a bone, if there is a child present you are much more likely to get the help you need.

By teaching children lifesaving skills, they will always have them, ready to help their classmates and families, and will take these skills with them wherever they go for the rest of their lives!

I believe that teaching children first aid in schools is an essential programme but the level at which it is taught should be very basic. After all if a child can save a life it is a life saved.