12 September 2019

Press release - Lifesaving lessons for schools: first aid added to the school curriculum

For further information: Alice Owen aliceowen@redcross.org.uk 
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Lifesaving lessons for schools: first aid added to the school curriculum after ten years of campaigning

  • Teachers in England pilot first aid lessons as it becomes compulsory on the school curriculum from 2020
  • British Red Cross research published today reveals 86 per cent of children believe that learning how to save a life is one of the most important lessons they could learn at school
  • Nine out of ten pupils said knowing first aid skills would make them feel more confident to help 
  • Today (Thursday) almost 100 schoolchildren from Ark Oval Primary Academy descend on Victoria Tower Gardens outside the Houses of Parliament, to demonstrate life-saving skills
  • Founder of The BumpClass and producer of The Parenthood podcast Marina Fogle met young lifesavers Thomas, 14, and Sophie, 10
  • Ahead of World First Aid Day on Saturday, the charity is encouraging everyone to learn lifesaving skills by downloading its ground-breaking first aid app available for Apple via iTunes or Android via Google Play.

For the very first time, school children across England will learn lifesaving skills as part of the school curriculum, a monumental moment after ten years of campaigning by the British Red Cross and partners.

Concerning new research reveals almost a quarter of children polled (23 per cent) have experienced a situation where someone needed first aid but the majority (62 per cent) said they would feel helpless to act if they witnessed an accident and someone was injured. The research is being released by the British Red Cross ahead of World First Aid Day and to coincide with the launch of the pilot of first aid in schools. 

The UK wide research, adds weight to the charity’s call for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland to make first aid a compulsory part of the school curriculum there too.

Nine out of ten children agreed that knowing first aid skills would make them feel more confident to help in a first aid emergency – highlighting how learning first aid will empower young people and help to create a generation of lifesavers.

The poll also shows:

  • 86 per cent of children agreed that learning how to save a life is one of the most important lessons they could learn at school. 
  •  The survey found that nine out of 10 parents (91 per cent) of 5-18 year olds back children learning first aid and lifesaving skills as a compulsory part of the school curriculum.

A separate study by the British Red Cross found that up to 59 per cent of deaths from injuries could be prevented if first aid had been given before the medical services arrived (1). The actions of the first person at the scene are vital – and can mean the difference between life and death.

Just a few months after learning first aid skills schoolboy Thomas Nolan, 14, was waiting at a bus stop on his way to school when he saw a young man collapse. 

Thomas jumped to the aid of the man, who was having a cardiac arrest. His actions helped the man to stay alive until the ambulance arrived.  Thomas later found out that his actions had helped to save the man’s life. 

Thomas, from Herne Bay in Kent, said: 

“I’d only woken up about 40 minutes earlier and I was just standing at bus stop like normal when a guy standing next to me collapsed. Another boy called the ambulance while I began doing first aid.

“When I realised the man wasn’t breathing, I started doing chest compressions. You might not think you’ll remember what to do but as soon as it starts it comes back to you. Anyone can do it if they know how.”

“I think everyone should have the chance to learn first aid. It gives you the ability to help out properly. Think about it, it could be your parents or grandparents. If you were stuck in a situation and didn’t know how to help – how would you feel?”

Thomas’s proud father David Nolan said:

“Thomas is not one to want the limelight. But it’s so important to recognise what he did. He was praised by the nurse and paramedics who said he did exactly the right thing.”

“Children learning first aid could make all the difference if one of their younger brother or sisters were choking at home. And even when kids get older and start driving the risks are high.

“It links to science, biology and health as well, and knowing these basic skills saves lives.”

The curriculum changes come under the introduction of Relationships, Sex and Health Education and mean that from September 2020 all pupils in state-funded schools in England will learn first aid.

Primary school children will be taught basic first aid for example, how to call emergency services or how to help someone with a head injury. 

Secondary school children will learn lifesaving skills such as how to help someone who is having a cardiac arrest.

Around 1,600 schools across England have signed up to start teaching Relationships, Sex and Health Education early from this September, according to the Department for Education.

Over 500 schools have already signed up to receive free British Red Cross first aid education resources to support teachers to start teaching first aid this year.

The British Red Cross is committed to campaigning for first aid education to be taught in all schools once a year, every year across the whole of the UK.

Joe Mulligan, Head of First Aid Education at the British Red Cross said:

“The launch of first aid on the school curriculum in England celebrates a landmark commitment by the government to create a future generation of lifesavers. Our research released for World First Aid Day highlights how vital first aid lessons are in teaching and empowering children to feel they are able to help in an emergency. 

“These aren’t just skills that young people will be able to use now, but will be able take with them into adulthood. We need to build strong communities who know to help in a crisis, and we are now a step closer to achieving this.”

On Thursday almost 100 schoolchildren from Ark Oval Primary Academy descend on Victoria Tower Gardens outside the Houses of Parliament, to demonstrate life-saving skills.They were joined by campaigner, founder of The BumpClass and producer of The Parenthood podcast Marina Fogle.

Marina said:

“I’m delighted that first aid lessons are now part of the national  curriculum. So many women I know, especially those weaning their babies, are terrified of the possibility of their child choking. You never know how you might act in an emergency, but children learning first aid could make all the difference if one of their younger siblings were choking at home. Now we have to make sure school children in the rest of the country – outside England - get the same chance to learn how to save a life.” 

Toby Martlew, Head teacher at Ark Oval Primary Academy said:

“It’s really positive news that first aid is becoming part of the school curriculum. We’ve recently had an inspiring pupil who used their first aid knowledge to help an adult by providing first aid and calling the emergency services. This really highlights how important it is for even younger children to learn basic first skills such as the importance of getting help or calling 999. 

“We want to make sure our pupils have a well-rounded education that equips them for life outside of school as well as in it, and part of this is giving them the skills and confidence to act if they are faced with an emergency. This way we can help to build a generation of lifesavers.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“It’s fantastic that young people are so enthusiastic about learning first aid – a really important skill that means they will be ready to help in an emergency and could even save someone’s life one day. 

“Our new health education curriculum, to be rolled out nationally in 2020, will mean every child will have the chance to learn lifesaving skills at school along with how to look after their own mental and physical health, ensuring they have the knowledge they need to grow up safe and happy.”

The British Red Cross is also relaunching its first aid mobile app so that everyone can have lifesaving skills at their fingertips.

Everyone can know the skills to save a life. Download the free British Red Cross first aid app available for Apple via iTunes or Android via Google Play.

ENDS

Notes to editors

  • Online surveys were carried out by ResearchBods. Parents: Total sample size was 1000 parents of 5-18 year olds. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th – 14th August 2019. Children: Total sample size was 1000 UK children aged 8-15. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th – 14th August 2019.  The figures are representative of all UK children (aged 8-15).
  • (1) Research, Evaluation and Impact Report: British Red Cross and the University of Manchester Are prehospital deaths from trauma and accidental injury preventable? A summary report (2016) Alison McNulty www.redcross.org.uk/first-aid/dont-stop-at-999 
  • Teachers can sign up to our pilot to receive free British Red Cross resources that will support them to teach first aid www.redcross.org.uk/teach-first-aid 
  • Show your support for World First Aid Day on social media using #SaveALife

About World First Aid Day
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) introduced World First Aid Day in 2000. Each year, more than 100 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world organise events to raise public awareness of how first aid can save lives in every day crisis situations.

About the British Red Cross
The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies. We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.

About the Every Child a Lifesaver Coalition
The Every Child a Lifesaver campaign brought together the British Red Cross, British Heart Foundation, and St John Ambulance with the aim to create a new generation of lifesavers by campaigning for the introduction first aid education as part of the curriculum.