'Don't kill off first aid'

27th April 2007 at 01:00
Life-saving charity furious at proposed curriculum change

MEDICS HAVE been left fuming at what they claim is "the down-grading" of first aid in the new draft personal and social education curriculum.

Senior officials at St John Ambulance Cymru-Wales were further upset after realising they were not consulted over proposals to relegate the importance of basic life-saving skills in the national curriculum from next September.

They have now appealed to officials to have "a change of heart"

and reinstate first aid as "a should-be learned" element of PSE at both key stages 3 and 4.

A source at St John said: "We were shocked to discover that first aid has been taken out of the proposals at KS4 and downgraded at KS3. It has been made worse because we were not aware the national curriculum consultation was taking place, and we only realised just before the deadline."

Pupils who take PSE at KS3 as an option learn how to deal with medical emergencies, ranging from a bleeding wound to poisoning and choking. They also learn how to administer CPR to victims who are fighting for their lives.

At present they spend eight hours learning first aid over an academic year as part of the PSE programme.

Teachers also receive training to deliver the course, meaning they are better equipped to deal with pupil emergencies. But if the draft goes unchanged, first aid might not be taught at all.

St John fought hard in 2000 for first aid to be included in the PSE framework, which includes health and emotional well-being, moral and spiritual development, active citizenship, sustainable development and global citizenships, and preparing for lifelong learning.

Since then, the organisation claims the teaching has saved lives - including that of mother-of-four Nicola Farnden, who slipped into a diabetic coma at home in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, last year.

Her daughter Maxine, 14, a pupil at Ysgol Bro Morgannwg in the town, put her in the recovery position and dialled 999, something she had been taught to do in a first-aid class a week earlier.

Figures from the Child Accident Prevention Trust estimate that 6,500 children under the age of 14 are rushed to accident and emergency departments every day.

Accidents, according to St John Cymru, are the most common cause of death in children over 12 months.

Sarah Thomas, schools development officer at St John, said she believed its young lifesaver award scheme, giving pupils basic first-aid skills, allowed less academically minded students to win recognition and a certificate for their efforts.

Croesyceiliog school in Cwmbran, Torfaen, has recently been named school of the year for equipping the most young people with life-saving skills during 2006. The school trained 226 pupils as part of the lifesaver award scheme.

An Assembly government spokesperson said first aid was still as important and that the consultation response from St John Ambulance would be considered seriously.

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