First Aid in Schools – is it viable?
As an active St John Ambulance cadet, I may have a biased view as to whether first aid should be taught in schools or not, but hear me out. It is time to acknowledge that there may be some negatives to trying to teach first aid in schools, whether in citizenship or as a part of a subject course (i.e. biology).
The first negative would seem to be the costs of getting a trainer in from an external organisation several times to teach each class in the school. Understandably this would amount to a hefty sum, but that would be disregarding some rather valid alternatives. Our school has many qualified first aiders, of which most have to go on re-certification courses annually to keep them competent. First aid trained staff can teach life saving technique – organisations such as St John Ambulance even support it. So the cost can be crossed off the list essentially – what next?
A reasonable suggestion would be the amount of time it takes to train, and with the sheer volume of pupils in the school surely it isn’t possible? This couldn’t be further from the truth. Recently, the government announced changes to PSHE, making it a compulsory subject in public schools in England. By doing this, a survey was carried out to assess what should be included on the curriculum, and this is where it gets interesting. Practically all first-aid organisations and charities supported adding first aid to the curriculum – and what was their solution? An hour per year. Not week, not month, not even term. But year.
St John Ambulance predict that up to 150,000 lives could be endangered in England as a result of the skill not being known widely enough, with 59% of people in a survey saying they would not feel confident to try and save a life (24% even said they would stand by and do nothing to wait for an ambulance crew). Effective CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) can potentially triple a person’s chance of survival before an ambulance crew arrives – this is increased even more dramatically when a defibrillator is found and used. Around 90% of cardiac arrests are fatal, merely because the life-saving technique is not widely taught.
So, an hour per year (or 50 minutes in our case)? Entirely practical, although it will be at the despair of one of Miss Bosworth’s expertly crafted (and characteristically pink) PowerPoint presentations on how to be a responsible member of society. Whilst our affection, as students, towards both the ‘Jokerman’ and ‘Comic Sans MS’ fonts is indescribably high, I believe a weeks rest from these beloved works of art will not be perceived in a negative light if you have the skills to save a life at the end of it.
At this current point, both the cost and time ‘pressures’ of basic first aid training seem to be negligible. So why is first aid training in school facing such a gruesome, hideous battle from our lovely members in the Commons? One extremely benevolent chap, Conservative MP Phillip Davies, managed to give a so-called ‘speech’ that lasted 50 minutes in a successful attempt of filibustering that deposited the first aid in schools debate directly into the bin. His argument? He has never used his skills – so it is obviously a waste to train people in life-saving technique. To any person with even the most basic set of morals, training thousands of people even if it saved just a few lives would hopefully be enough to validate first aid training in schools – the reality is that it would save more than just a few. First aid is a skill you hope to never use, much like your GCSE in English Literature, yet if you have to the reward is far greater than any other subject.
Simple mathematics denotes that ‘saving a life > referencing the power of a meagre shell to an entire book’, yet unfortunately first aid has not had its turn with the conch, and its importance struggles to be heard. To put it in perspective, in a 50 minute session pupils can learn about: CPR, Primary Survey, Recovery Position and how to deal with choking. Resources? Free online. Cost? Free – there are in-school first aiders. Time? One citizenship lesson.
Costs can be negated, and an hour a year is hardly a spoil. We are talking about saving lives here and it’s no subject to get petty in.
St John Ambulance (SJA) – page detailing that first aid trained staff can teach school pupils (go to ‘Who can deliver this training?’): http://www.sja.org.uk/sja/schools/a-z-of-all-first-aid-modules.aspx
SJA page, showing charity support for First Aid in Schools: https://www.sja.org.uk/sja/support-us/our-campaigns/every-child-a-lifesaver.aspx
Guardian article, detailing SJA statistics: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/apr/12/first-aid-skills-deaths
Huffington post article detailing filibustering: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/11/20/tory-mps-first-aid-children-schools-curriculum-filibuster_n_8612732.html
Every Child a Lifesaver: http://www.everychildalifesaver.org.uk