PROPOSALS to include life saving skills and first aid in the new schools curriculum have received a cautious welcome from leading health charities in Wales.
British Heart Foundation Cymru (BHF), British Red Cross and St John Cymru have campaigned for first aid and CPR to be taught in all schools so that pupils in Wales have the same opportunities to learn life saving skills as their peers in other parts of the UK. First aid and CPR will be added to the English secondary school curriculum from September 2020, and every Scottish local authority has committed to teaching CPR in their secondary schools.
Commenting on the curriculum guidance published yesterday, BHF Cymru’s Policy and Public Affairs Manager Emma Henwood said: “We welcome the inclusion of life saving skills which has been adopted in the new guidance since last year’s public consultation. We worked closely with the Welsh Government and pioneer schools during the consultation to explain how students might progress their learning of first aid and lifesaving skills at each stage of their school career.
“However, we are disappointed that the new guidance doesn’t go far enough for Welsh students. By not making CPR and first aid training mandatory on the curriculum, there are no guarantees that every young person in school in Wales will have the same opportunity and access to this training as their peers in England and Scotland, and future survival rates in Wales may be affected because of that.
St John Cymru Director of Training, Jon Phillips, said: “We know that by empowering children and young people with the lifesaving first aid skills, knowledge and confidence we can increase the number of individuals willing and able to assist in a life-threatening situation.”
“While we welcome the decision by the Welsh Government, we believe there is still more to be done to ensure every school child in Wales is equipped with the skills they need to save a life.”
British Red Cross education manager in Wales Dafydd Beech said: “This is a welcome step from the Welsh Government and one that will save lives, and help develop healthier and more resilient communities.
“Today’s students are tomorrow’s lifesavers. As adults, they will be living, studying and working in communities across Wales and we can be more confident they will know what to do when faced with a health emergency such as a cardiac arrest or serious bleed.
“It’s important that we build on this encouraging development to ensure that teaching first aid becomes a statutory requirement for all Welsh schools, enable all students to be taught first aid skills at least once every year and deliver what parents want – 79% of them believe first aid should definitely be taught..”
There are around 2,800 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in Wales each year, but less than one in ten people survive across the UK, which is lower than reported in many other countries. BHF Cymru believes Wales can become a leader in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival and address current inequalities by ensuring everyone learns how to perform CPR and use a defibrillator, regardless of where they live or what school they attend.
British Red Cross research shows that almost nine out of ten children surveyed in Wales (89 per cent) said learning how to save a life is one of the most important lessons they could learn. Over nine out of ten children (94 per cent) agreed that knowing first aid skills would make them feel more confident to help in a first aid emergency.
In Wales, 85% of secondary schools already have BHF ‘Call Push Rescue’ kits, enabling them to teach life-saving CPR skills flexibly using free bilingual training videos and lesson plans. Since 2014, more than 100,000 secondary school students in Wales have learnt CPR this way.
BHF Cymru’s Policy Manager Emma Henwood continued: “We had an amazing response to our CPR campaign, with so much support from schools, young people and their parents across Wales for CPR to be taught in schools.
“Far too many lives are lost in this country when people suffer a cardiac arrest out of hospital, partly because too few bystanders have the expertise or confidence to perform CPR. Providing this training to young people in all schools in Wales is vital in helping to change this. We will continue to make the case that just one hour a year to teach CPR in schools is essential, as hundreds more lives could be saved across the nation each year.”