As a teacher of PSHE, I have always seen the importance of teaching pupils about safety. I really feel that the point of the subject is to teach pupils how to react in the times when I’m not there.
That’s how I teach it anyway. It’s not me telling them what to do or what not to do, it’s giving them the tools they need to stay safe in many different situations. It’s a really important subject, and it saddens me that many schools have had to squeeze its space from the curriculum because of time or funding issues.
You’d think then, that I would be thrilled by Damian Hinds’ announcement that pupils are to learn life-saving skills and defibrillator use from 2020.
The British Heart Foundation states that the survival rate is less than 10 per cent for those in the UK that have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital. It’s important to note that in countries that teach compulsory CPR in schools the percentage more than doubles.
So that’s it. Done and dusted. Finally the government rolls out a good idea that benefits all.
If pupils are being taught at a young age how to help someone in this situation, they could save lives.
Defibrillators are much more accessible now and can be used more freely by members of the public, so knowing how to use one could help a pupil to bring someone back from the brink of death. Unfortunately, many defibrillators are vandalised – one in Plymouth was damaged four times in six months. Perhaps teaching pupils about the power of these devices would help to make everyone aware of how precious and important they are.
I can’t help but think back to my own experience. Though I am and have been for some time a PSHE lead, I put off becoming a first-aider for some time. Why? With an already very full timetable, it was about finding the time to actually do it in. The thing is, the CPR session may only take an hour or so, but then there’s all the other skills that exist outside of it. How can we place CPR above any other aspect of first aid or general safety?
The other issue is painstakingly familiar – the thinking that this isn’t already being taught in schools. I know of many that do teach this already. Schools do care, and it is a good idea. Why is it not nationwide? Time and money.
So to Damian Hinds and the other Department for Education ministers, I say this: in schools, we know this is needed. The same way that we need to teach about all aspects of safety; road, fire, relationships.
The reason it isn’t already being done is because you haven’t allowed us the time for PSHE in the curriculum. It hasn’t been funded properly and we don’t have enough fully trained staff. To perform CPR effectively, you need to feel confident in the person who teaches you – a trained specialist is needed.
So, instead of telling us what is going to be brought in by 2020 – CPR, SRE and whatever else – you need to realise what’s truly needed to make this happen right now: more cash and extra time.
Laura George is the head of PSHE at King’s Rochester Prep School in Kent