‘Teaching first aid in primary schools could save lives’

Children in deprived areas are more likely to experience a medical emergency but less likely to know what to do, MSPs have heard

Emma Seith

A teenager and two 10-year-old girls are among those urging the Scottish government to back the teaching of first aid in all primaries, arguing the move would cut down on those too terrified to act in an emergency.

The trio appeared today before a Scottish Parliament committee, along with East Renfrewshire primary teacher Colin Peebles and St Andrew's First Aid chief executive Stuart Callison, in a bid to persuade MSPs to back a petition calling for training to be part of the school curriculum.

The petition was lodged with the Scottish Parliament in November and gained around 600 signatures.

Short read: School CPR lessons 'could triple survival rate’

Long read: ‘Mental health first aid’ treats stigma and pupils

Related: 'Every school should have a defibrillator'

Mr Callison said Scotland was “poor by European standards” and close to the bottom of European league tables when it came to “bystander interventions” – when someone who happens to be near an incident applies their first aid skills – and first aid training numbers. He also said that whilst children living in deprived areas were more likely to encounter a medical emergency – because health in deprived areas was generally poorer and they were more likely to encounter violence – they were less likely to know what to do.

He said that after introducing a similar school-training programme,  Denmark increased bystander intervention from 20 per cent to 70 per cent.

However, it was acknowledged by the committee – and the petitioners – that schools and teachers already had demanding workloads and a wide-ranging curriculum to cover.

Mr Callison said that the programme – which it is estimated would cost £0.5 million in its first year – would include off-the-shelf, age-appropriate materials, resources such as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) dummies, and training for one primary teacher in every school.

Mr Peebles, who teaches at Mearns Primary School, said that the training could help staff deliver the health and wellbeing element that, alongside literacy and numeracy, is central to the Scottish curriculum. Already, he pointed out, children were supposed to learn to understand their bodies, how to manage risk and how to respond in an emergency situation.

Ellie Meek and Millie Robinson, pupils at Parkhead Primary in West Calder, West Lothian, were asked how they would persuade teachers that first aid training was worthwhile.

Millie said she thought if teachers saw how useful it was they would want to do it. She added: “If you know it then you could save a life. I think if they know that then they would want to do it.”

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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