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Thanks Miss, you're a life-saver

What's the worst that could happen in class? Accidents or illness can strike at any time. Hannah Frankel offers advice

Would you know what to do if one of your pupils had a severe asthma attack in class? Or went into anaphylactic shock following an allergic reaction to a peanut?

If not, here is your chance to find out. Knowing how to administer basic emergency first aid procedures is a fundamental life skill and a crucial component in the key stage 2, 3 and 4 PSHE syllabus. Yet there are scant resources available for teachers who lack confidence in teaching first aid.

Now St John Ambulance, the first aid charity, has launched a new course for seven to 16-year-olds called Young First Aider (YFA). The comprehensive pack, which can be used in schools or youth clubs, includes 25 different first aid topics on everything from how to deal with an unconscious casualty to someone suffering from shock or severe bleeding.

The course, which includes film clips, lesson plans, a DVD, PowerPoint presentations, worksheets and scenario cards, can largely be taught without any prior first aid knowledge, although the more advanced topics, such as resuscitation, require additional training.

Hazel Shirley teaches at Nonsuch High School for Girls in Cheam, Surrey, where she takes Year 10 PSHE in a six-week first aid course.

"The activities are a basis for discussion, such as the poisons card," she says. "The pupils get to talk about which substances are the most poisonous from, say, berries, alcohol or chicken. They learn that it's not just about the substance, but also quantity, treatment and over what time scale the substance is ingested. Uncooked chicken, for example, causes food poisoning, so they get to think more about that."

Hazel also instructs Year 12s in peer teaching, showing younger pupils basic first aid skills, such as how to deal with an unconscious casualty (don't move them) or what to do about fractures (above all else, keep the bone still). "The girls will often have experience of broken bones so it's good to get them talking about it," she says.

A lot of injuries lead to shock, so pupils must also learn how to keep a casualty warm and reassure them.

Hazel, 54, has been a member of St John's Ambulance since she was nine years old and runs weekly meetings for a cadet unit for ages 10 to 18.

A number of teachers have been involved in testing the guide. Micki Swift teaches the YFA course to Year 5 and 6 pupils in an after-school club at St Clement's School in Jersey. "They are learning what an adult would learn on a first aid course," she says. "The younger children can deal with burns and bleeding and the older ones will learn how to resuscitate."

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