I remind the House, if it needs reminding, and those attending to our proceedings beyond the Chamber that the hon. Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) has the Floor. I very gently point out to the hon. Gentleman, to whose speech I am sure everyone was listening with rapt attention, that at 11 o’clock he had been addressing the House for 17 minutes, which is perfectly in order, but several other hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, so I am cautiously optimistic that he is approaching his peroration.
I will not delay the House for too long, lest I be perceived as the Mini-Me to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). I was arguing that the Bill puts those of us who feel passionately about first aid and its importance to all of us as citizens, parents and Members of Parliament in an invidious position. The heart agrees that this must be taken forward and given greater prominence, and those engaged in it given greater support, whether by Government, councils, school or any voluntary groups involved, but I am not at all convinced that the current Bill is the answer.
As I said before the urgent questions, I have consulted my local headteachers. I will not reprise what I said earlier, other than to say that in each of those conversations a range of interesting and valuable ways in which first aid and CPR can be furthered was put forward. One school has a first aid-themed day and asks pupils to go in voluntarily on a Saturday to do first aid training. Teachers nobly agree to come in and man the school for that day. St John Ambulance comes in and assists.
I agree wholeheartedly. Not only do the people who engage in these activities when inspired to do that voluntarily do so with greater appetite than if they were compulsory, but when it is not mandated in a prescriptive manner in the national curriculum, there is far more opportunity for teachers and community groups to blossom and come up with interesting and innovative ideas, rather than following tired templates.
I quite agree. My hon. Friend makes another valuable point. Quality is at the heart of the argument, too. That is the final argument I want to come on to. In all walks of life, doing something voluntarily is usually better than being forced to do it. Quality and diversity are important in this argument. If we inspire and encourage our schools, any other group and workplace to take this forward themselves, hopefully, they will come up with all manner of interesting ways in which to do that. The light-touch approach may result in better outcomes than the compulsory approach.
If the voluntary model is so compelling and inspiring, why do so few people in the UK have the ability to deliver life-saving first aid skills? Will the hon. Gentleman be extending that logic to English, maths, science and every other core national curriculum subject, or is he just trying to take up time to talk out the Bill?
As we have heard, if 84% of teachers believe such training is important, I am surprised that the statistics suggest that only a quarter of their schools take that up. In my experience, teachers are passionate about the matter and the majority of schools in my constituency are doing the training anyway, in their own way. None of the schools I spoke to—no one has answered this point—wanted that to be put in the national curriculum. We must understand that, if Members vote for the measure, they may be voting against the professional judgment of head teachers and many of the staff involved in providing the training.
The hon. Gentleman seems to be arguing against himself. Would not passing the Bill give schools confidence and the impetus to take up the issue? I have had a lot of correspondence on the matter, and I am surprised that he has not. A lot of it has been not just from teachers but from the young people themselves.
I hope that one thing that will come out of the Bill is that more parents and teachers will take this forward voluntarily, for all the reasons I have mentioned. I will not reprise them because other Members want to speak, but diversity and innovation come through doing something voluntarily, rather than through forcing people to do such things on the national curriculum.
My hon. Friend may be better informed than I, but I believe that that is done in Germany and some other countries around the world. Such policies may be good ones. They may be things to consider. However, I do not think that the national curriculum is necessarily the lever to use to pursue this because, as I say, none of the headteachers wants that. They want to continue to do the training in their own—in my experience—innovative and local manner. They also want to work with local groups. As I said earlier, there are some superb ones in my constituency. I am sure that every hon. Member has such groups in their constituency. It is those groups I want to see given greater support, whether by councils, the Government or any other organisation, so that they can continue to blossom and flourish.
Following on from what my hon. Friend has been saying, does he agree that this is actually a very bureaucratic response requiring lots of guidance from the Secretary of State? It is back to the bad old days of schools being lumbered with endless instructions and directives from Whitehall.
I quite agree. I wonder whether some of those positive and innovative examples that I mentioned earlier, such as the school in Sutton Coldfield that offers such training on a voluntary basis and sees vast numbers of students take it up, the prefect programme and the weekend activity programme, would have happened if there were a simple prescriptive national curriculum approach to the problem.
The final issue I want to discuss is the fear of the tick-box culture, and this crosses over to other issues. It is one of the most corrosive aspects of our society, whether it is in education, financial services or any other form of regulation. So many professionals, when faced with a box to be ticked, do the bare minimum, rather than seeking to do the best or to offer the most innovative answer. I fear that the vague nature of this Bill, which allows maximum flexibility to our schools—which may appear ostensibly positive—in fact will not ensure that quality prevails. If those groups that I have seen in my constituency provide extremely high-quality CPR and first aid, and I am sure they do, I want to see that continue and be made available to young people, not eroded by the need of some schools—although I am certain it would be a minority—to pursue a tick-box culture.
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the important elements of first aid education is that the people who undertake it can receive a certificate at the end of it, which they and their parents can have pride in? Nothing in this Bill indicates anything other than a reduction in the quality of any certificates that may be given.
I am sure some schools will do this in an extremely high-quality manner and may well produce certificates, but the Bill does not prescribe that, so there will inevitably be a variance in quality between schools such as some of the ones I have spoken to, which will do this to the absolute best of their ability, and those which will do it in a pretty meagre fashion.
The last point I want to make is that we must not completely override the opinions of headteachers who take the view that the ultimate priority for their schools has to be maintaining academic standards and discipline and tackling the other challenges they face. Sadly, not every school in my constituency is a high-performing one. In fact, two have been in and out of special measures and have great difficulties. I would love first aid and CPR to be taught in those schools, but I caution Members who would override the view of a headteacher that the immediate priority for their school is to use school time, such as it is, to pursue academic standards, discipline and literacy and numeracy.
In conclusion, I reiterate my point that the Bill, while hugely important in many respects, suffers from the fatal flaw that it does not represent the views of many of our headteachers—those at the coal face who will have to implement this.
I justify it in that we are all constituency Members of Parliament. If every one of us in this House asked all of our headteachers and teachers and then came to this debate—sadly, not many have come today, however—we would have a poll we could all rely on far more than an opinion poll.
Many headteachers were well informed about the Bill and what was available, but what they are offering is in some cases already in excess of that 30 minutes. The point they come back to time and again is that they want this to be left to their own professional judgment and to be able to work productively with local community groups such as the superb Newark Community First Aid, St John Ambulance, the scouts, the guides and the sea scouts.
I do not think anybody is against teaching first aid to communities and making people aware, but how can we teach in 30 minutes the difference between burns, for example? A burn and a scald have to be treated initially differently, and it is not fair to say 30 minutes is all that is necessary to address the whole first aid ethos of the Bill, because it will take a lot more time than that to teach these skills.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. I am not a medical professional so I will not pretend to be an expert in what knowledge can be gained in 30 minutes—others clearly have more experience than I do.
The point remains that there will be a great variance in quality between schools that give the kind of training I have been lucky enough to receive myself and to view in my constituency, which can take hours or even days and can include regular updates, and those schools and institutions which choose to do it in 30 minutes. The Bill does not protect the standard or quality, and some parents may be left disappointed that their children receive only quite modest training in this area when— if this was left to the choice of our headteachers, hopefully encouraged by the Government and Members of Parliament—we could instil a culture of high-quality training pursued by strong community groups, rooted in their communities and finding solutions that work for them. We must not undermine those wonderful community efforts that could produce quality education and training far surpassing that provided by a 30-minute course forced by legal mandate on our headteachers, and against the will of many of them.
I am pleased to be able to contribute to this important debate and would like to start by thanking the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) on taking this Bill forward.
Every year some 30,000 people in the UK have cardiac arrests outside of a hospital or associated care setting, but, at present, fewer than one in 10 of them survive. With a current ambulance target response time of eight minutes, time is of the essence, so acting quickly is essential because for every minute that passes in which immediate CPR is not given, the survival chance falls by 10%. However, if immediate CPR action is taken, the chances of survival rise threefold. Furthermore, it is estimated that 150,000 people die every single year in situations where their life could potentially have been saved if someone with an understanding of first aid was on hand to act quickly.
We will all have our own experiences of family and friends who have had accidents or fallen into difficulty and required urgent first aid. Very recently, a close friend of mine collapsed while playing sport. Thankfully, there were qualified professionals close at hand to assist and my friend now continues to make a recovery. However, such was the seriousness of the situation that it could have been very different if medical assistance had not been on hand. Many people, however, are not so fortunate. Thousands of lives are lost every single year because people do not have the knowledge or the confidence to intervene in such circumstances.
The Bill, of course, is about equipping our young people with the range of emergency life-support skills that are needed to keep somebody alive in such circumstances until professional help arrives. Depending upon the situation, the range of skills and knowledge which such training could provide may well prove to be the difference at a time of a cardiac arrest or a serious accident, when every second counts.
We all appreciate the importance of ensuring that as many people as possible are adequately equipped to assist in such situations, should they be required to do so. Indeed, I wholeheartedly agree with those hon. Members who have suggested that this process needs to start in schools to ensure that all of our young people are taught the life-saving skills that will remain with them through the rest of their lives. Ultimately, the question becomes: how do we encourage schools to teach these vital skills to our young people?
Earlier this year in the last parliamentary Session, the Education Committee, of which I was a member at the time, published a report regarding the teaching of PSHE in schools. PSHE covers a wide programme of learning through which our young people acquire the knowledge, understanding and skills they need to manage their daily lives. Among the various topics taught in our schools as part of this broad subject area is life-saving skills, which include CPR and more general first aid training. While it is up to individual schools to determine how they deliver PSHE, the Committee’s report makes it clear that this is an important part of the curriculum and that the Government should take various steps to improve the quality of provision in schools.
The final recommendations from the Committee cited a number of key steps that are required to improve the quality of PSHE in schools. These included formally measuring the quality of provision, incentivising schools to improve the way in which they deliver PSHE, and the need to ensure that appropriate curriculum time is devoted to the subject.
I was pleased to see that the Government welcomed the report’s findings when they set out their initial response in July on improving the quality of that education in schools. They made it clear that they want all schools to put high-quality PSHE at the heart of the curriculum. In March, before formally responding to the Committee’s recommendations, the Secretary of State announced new measures to improve the quality of PSHE, including the development of a new, rigorous PSHE quality mark and working with the PSHE Association to help them to quality-assure resources. The new PSHE quality mark will be brought in line with similar accreditations of this type that require schools to provide evidence of the depth and quality of their teaching in a particular area. That includes first aid training.
As part of the Government’s initial response to the report in July, they stated that they will work with Ofsted on how best to capture evidence of the quality of PSHE education in schools. They also acknowledged the importance of schools publishing the relevant information about their PSHE curriculum on their websites, and they have indicated that they are considering options to further strengthen schools’ compliance with the current requirements.
In the longer term, the Government have now indicated that they want to go further and that they will work with the sector to develop further measures to improve quality. Indeed, the Secretary of State made it clear that she wanted to make significant progress on this issue during this Parliament and would consider in full the arguments put forward by the Committee as part of that work to ensure that PSHE is taught well in every school. I have alluded to the Committee’s report, and to the assurances that have been provided by the Secretary of State in response to it, in order to make clear the Government’s commitment to enhancing this education, of which life-saving skills are an integral part.
Along with other hon. Members, I look forward to seeing what steps the Secretary of State will take further to improve the quality of PSHE education in schools, but I am somewhat reassured by her commitment to take this work forward throughout the duration of this Parliament. Given the Government’s commitment to improving this provision, the delivery of first aid training and its role within the wider subject area may well be part of the Secretary of State’s report. It might therefore be somewhat premature to consider the question of first aid training in schools while we are still awaiting her report on the wider subject area, of which first aid forms an integral part.
According to research by St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross, only 7% of the UK population have the skills and the confidence to carry out basic first aid in an emergency. We all agree that starting early and providing training in schools is absolutely key to changing that situation in the longer term, but we must not forget the need to raise awareness of the issue throughout the wider community as well. Indeed, even if the Bill were approved, it would take many years to improve the degree to which life-saving skills were common among the general population. Surely we need to start now by raising the profile of this issue, and not only in schools.
My hon. Friend is making the crucial point that people might have had first aid training at school, but many of them will have left school quite a long time ago. What efforts does he think could be made, without resorting to heavy-handed legislation, to encourage people to renew those skills?
My hon. Friend makes a valid point. I myself have been on retraining courses over the years since I left school—although, as hon. Members can see, that was not so many years ago. [Laughter.]
As I was saying, surely we need to start now by raising the profile of this issue, not only in schools but in all parts of society from the workplace to voluntary clubs and places of worship. A number of organisations, including the British Heart Foundation, the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance, already work with thousands of people up and down the country to provide these skills and raise awareness of this issue. Those three organisations in particular work with a plethora of voluntary groups and organisations across my constituency, and I am sure that all Members will join me in paying tribute to the work that they do throughout the United Kingdom.
However, we have a long way to go in complementing the work of these charities and working alongside them to raise awareness of these issues and to further promote first aid training among the wider adult population. As MPs, we have a role to play. During a Westminster Hall debate earlier this year, my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Heather Wheeler) revealed that she had written to all her local schools and colleges about installing defibrillators. Today, other Members have talked about doing that. I recall my hon. Friend saying that a number of schools had subsequently taken her up on that offer as a result. Along with our local councillors, we can have a role in working alongside schools, local authorities, community groups and voluntary organisations to encourage them to consider the provision of first aid training. Following the example set by my hon. Friend, I have written to all my schools within the Calder Valley—and I will do so again—to raise awareness of these issues.
I am pleased that a number of hon. Members have mentioned the availability of defibrillators. While their presence on their own is clearly not enough, particularly in the absence of adequate training, they are an important part of the jigsaw puzzle. My own local authority, Calderdale, has taken steps to increase the number of defibs in public buildings and in places that experience high footfall. This has been an important and welcome first step. Local authorities have a key role to play and it is important that they take these issues seriously and consider how they can work with schools and other stakeholders to promote the wider availability of defibs throughout the community.
We have heard harrowing statistics and personal stories from hon. Members which speak for themselves. We all agree on the need to ensure that more people are first aid trained, and the arguments in favour of providing training in schools have been accepted by all. I commend the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead for introducing the Bill and for allowing us this opportunity to discuss, and raise awareness of, these important issues.
Many schools already teach CPR and more general first aid training as part of their delivery of the PSHE curriculum, and the question is whether that should be prescribed in law as outlined by the Bill. The Government have accepted the concerns about how PSHE has been delivered in the past, and they have made it quite clear that they are committed to working with the sector to develop further measures to improve the quality of PSHE in schools. Indeed, the Secretary of State has indicated that she wants to make significant progress on this issue during the course of this Parliament. To approve legislation relating to first aid training in schools before the Secretary of State has reported back on her development plan for the teaching of the subject area of which this forms a constituent part is, I feel, somewhat premature.
It is up to individual schools to determine how they deliver PSHE. I am pleased that the Government are looking closely at provision in this area with a view to raising standards, but it is important that schools retain the ultimate right to deliver the curriculum in the best way they see fit. It is the professionals, our teachers and headteachers, who are best placed to decide what is most suitable for their students, and they need the flexibility to deliver PSHE, including CPR and first aid training, in a way that is appropriate for their school environment.
The national curriculum creates a minimum expectation for the school programme. Indeed, it does not seek to prescribe everything that a school should teach, but rather, creates a structure and a framework around which the professionals working in a school environment can tailor a programme that works best for their students. We must also remember that schools do not have a monopoly on the provision of education to our children. Parents, grandparents and voluntary groups outside the formal school environment have just as important a role to play.
Let me return to the Education Committee’s report of earlier this year, which recommended putting CPR and first aid on a statutory footing in the curriculum. What Members who served on that Committee have not mentioned is that we stopped short of recommending that that should be done provided we extended the school day. There is a real risk here in terms of a plethora of high-profile issues. I recall discussing the curriculum in 2011, when there were high-profile campaigns for a number of things, such as PSHE, life skills, road safety, financial literacy, advanced technology and even Latin.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I recall that when I was at school—that very short time ago—Latin was not my most favourite of subjects. Some people would say neither was English, but there we go.
The Government have been called on to include many similar subjects in the national curriculum. Simply having this long and overly prescriptive list of compulsory subjects that must be taught could easily lead to a tick-box exercise, as has been said, and to schools being prevented from focusing on what is important for their pupils and their communities. Schools should be encouraged to, and supported in, teaching vital skills such as first aid, but forcing them to do so in law may not be the best way to achieve the outcomes we all desire, unless we have a serious think about extending the school day.
I am going to be fairly brief, because I agree very much with the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan) on the importance of having the opportunity to vote on this Bill. This is a Second Reading debate, so we are talking about whether, in principle, the Bill should go into Committee, where we will be able to deal with some of the issues raised by the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker), for whom I have a lot of regard, having served with him on the Education Committee. Those sorts of issues can be addressed in more detail in Committee; it is what the Committee stage is there for. The concerns raised by the hon. Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) would also come into that category.
In starting my speech, I should praise my—
I am not going to give way because, as I said, I am going to be brief. I am going to praise my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) for all the work she has done in bringing this Bill to us today and in getting the support she has. It is worth noting that Members from four different parties have signed up as sponsors of the Bill, which demonstrates the strong cross-party support it has, both within this House and outside it. We have heard 10 speeches today. In the two speeches to which I have referred, we heard valid concerns that could appropriately be dealt with in Committee. The hon. Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) has also raised, in her interventions, the sort of concerns that should be followed through in Committee. As my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead said in response to an intervention from the hon. Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall), people with those concerns will be welcome on the Committee, in order to make sure we get the Bill right, because that is the purpose of that stage. Without going through the detail of what the other eight Members said, it is worth saying that we heard eight very strong speeches from across the House, each of which was strongly in favour of the Bill. The speakers drew on their own personal and professional experience to give strong evidence as to why the Bill should go into Committee. They also brought information from outside this House in support.
I agree with the Bill in principle. I believe it is important to help people look after each other. Improving our health is the product of many activities, and this does not just come from government; these things are done in communities, schools, workplaces, businesses and homes across the country. I recognise the need to train as many people as we can, particularly young people. Many hon. Members have alluded to the fact that the things we learn when we are young, be it in the girl guides, through St John Ambulance or at school, often stay with us almost instinctively throughout life. The skills needed to step in and help in an emergency are exactly the sort of things that could assist in the circumstances that many Members have alluded to in the debate. That is why at the general election Labour called for young people to have had access to emergency first aid training, including CPR, by the time they leave school.
I will be supporting the Bill, but, as I have indicated, I will be seeking further improvements to the Bill in Committee to address some of the issues that have been raised in the debate, so that it can offer a more holistic approach to emergency first aid training and so that schools can work with the voluntary sector to deliver the Bill’s aims. As it stands, the Bill places a strong onus on schools to provide the training, and that could be seen as prescriptive. I do not think that is the intention, and the opening remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead clearly showed that. It will be important that those things are tackled as we go through the detail of the Bill in Committee.
I have run an educational establishment, so I know all the complexities and challenges involved in making sure that things happen. Something can be compulsory yet still be delivered across a spectrum of different ways. That area can be dealt with in Committee, and I hope that the hon. Lady will offer to serve on it, because she has expertise that would be helpful in ensuring that we get this right.
The Government should take this opportunity to work with the third sector to support schools and young people in having access to this training. Taking the Bill into Committee represents an excellent opportunity to deliver the will of this House, as it has been clearly expressed today, and to progress things further. That stage will provide us with something we can consider further once the Bill returns.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), who knows I have a high regard for him, even though he did not give way to me during his speech. He said that the Bill has strong cross-party support and he talked about the will of the House, which presumably will mean that 100 MPs out of the 650 will be here—it is not a great total to reach—to vote for it today. I am sure that if those 100 MPs are here, it will go through. That is a matter of fact, so if 100 MPs troop through the Lobby, that will be the will of the House and that will be it. We will see just how much cross-party support the Bill actually has, rather than what he asserts.
I see four, but I am not going to get sidetracked on to the number of people on the Benches, as I am sure you want us to get into the meat of the debate, Mr Deputy Speaker. You know how anxious I always am to get cracking into the meat of the debate, and I am not going to disappoint you any longer.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) on introducing this Bill. It may have strong cross-party support, but it certainly does not have mine.
I am not capable of conducting this in Latin, Mr Deputy Speaker—some would say I am not able to conduct it in English. I am getting sidetracked again by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), and I hope you appreciate that it is certainly not of my doing.
The flavour of most private Members’ Bills that come before the House is that they are backed by a worthy sentiment, but are not really fit for purpose when given any great scrutiny. I fear that we are in that situation today. What we have been offered by a number of Members is what we normally get in this place on private Members’ Bills, which is a painless panacea. Politicians will always offer a painless panacea. With this Bill, I have heard that we can save lives, save money, save time and save absolutely anything. It has been said that there are no concerns and no downsides to this Bill, which will stipulate that it is compulsory for schools to provide first aid education. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick), I have spoken to the schools in my constituency, and I wish to share some of the feedback that they have given to me.
If this Bill is so easy for schools to implement—it is said that it will save time, save money and save lives—then there is absolutely nothing to stop them introducing first aid courses now as part of the existing curriculum. We have heard that already today, and we have heard that many schools already do that. Why on earth would we need to make compulsory something that is so wonderful and that has no downsides? Surely we can just sit back and wait for every school to implement it themselves.
One thing I always say is that we should trust the people who are doing things every day. They tend to be the ones who know the best about what goes on and what works. When I worked for Asda, I found that it was the checkout operators who were the best people to ask about what was going wrong or right in the store, because they saw it every day with their own eyes. I certainly believe in trusting the professionals. My father was a teacher for that matter, so I am all for trusting teachers to get on and do their job. I do not really want the Government to be sticking their nose in at every single turn, trying to lecture them every five minutes about what they should be doing when they are perfectly capable of making those decisions for themselves.
If we think that we have recruited the right people to be teachers, then we have absolutely nothing to fear from leaving them to get on and do their job. If we feel that we have recruited the wrong teachers and that we need to lecture them every five minutes about what they should be doing, the problem is in the recruitment process. We should not need to look over their shoulder all the time, telling them what they should and should not be doing. I fear that we have made that particular mistake with this Bill.
I should make something very clear now, because, doubtless, Opposition Members will try to misconstrue my remarks. First aid, as everyone has acknowledged, is a very important life skill. I encourage as many people as possible to learn that skill. I am, and remain, a supporter of first aid, and certainly do not think that it is unimportant. I do not want to prevent anybody from learning first aid if they wish to learn it. I want people to have that opportunity.
Every year, there are 5.5 million attendees at A&E departments, 3 million of whom have the types of accident and injury that first aid treatment could have helped. For example, there are about 2,600 open wound injuries, 2,400 bone injuries, about 40 incidents of choking and more than 290 injuries from burns. Every year, about 66,000 die from heart attacks and seizures. They are all compelling statistics that endorse the increased use of first aid within society. Indeed, those statistics seem a valuable reason to encourage more members of society to learn first aid, but they do not in themselves justify the reason why first aid should become compulsory in the school curriculum, and that is what I wish to focus on today.
This Bill is not starting out from here. In the previous Parliament, Julie Hilling, the former Member for Bolton West, introduced a very similar Bill as a ten-minute rule Bill, which provided amendments to the Education Act 2002. She also brought in an amendment during the Committee stage of the Education Bill to make provision for teaching emergency life support skills in the national curriculum. The response of the then Minister for Schools, my hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb), highlighted some of the same reservations that should be drawn to this debate today. He said:
“I agree that emergency life support skills can have an immensely positive impact on pupils’ families as well as schools and the wider community. It is encouraging to hear about the excellent work in schools…I am also aware of the invaluable support that organisations such as the British Heart Foundation and St John Ambulance offer individual schools or groups of schools to enrich curriculum work. I applaud them for their important work, but I do not agree that making emergency life support skills a statutory part of the curriculum is the right approach.”
I absolutely endorse what he said. He went on to say:
“We are clear that the national curriculum should set out the essential knowledge and understanding that all children should be expected to acquire in the course of their school lives. It is for teachers to design the wider curriculum in the way that meets the needs of their pupils, taking account of the views of parents, the wider community and local circumstances.”––[Official Report, Education Public Bill Committee, 5 April 2011; c. 990.]
That is the nub of my argument today. It should be a schools’ prerogative to incorporate extra-curricular activities, such as first aid education, into the school calendar, and they should not be forced to substitute other lessons to fit them in. That has been confirmed more recently—
It absolutely should be a voluntary thing. I was struck by my hon. Friend’s earlier intervention when he said that people who volunteer for things tend to enter into them with much more gusto than if they are compelled to be there. That is self-evidently the case. I do not see why that should not be the case for the teaching of first aid as well.
I should say that when the Government were pressed on this matter by Bob Russell, the former Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, the Secretary of State made it clear that her Department was prepared to help schools teach life-saving skills more generally if that was what schools wanted—again, that is very laudable. She also made it clear that the Government had negotiated a contract so that schools could obtain defibrillators at reasonable rates and train their pupils in the use of them.
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I do not intend to focus on the work of St John’s Ambulance in my speech. Obviously, I cannot cover everything. Perhaps he might be able to do so, Mr Deputy Speaker, if he is lucky enough to catch your eye later on.
What is also important is the time factor. We have heard different times bandied about as to how much training would be needed to fulfil the obligations in the Bill. I am still not entirely sure about it. Half an hour was the minimum that I have heard. It is important to note that my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), who did an awful lot of work in this area before he was deservedly promoted to ministerial ranks, asked a question about the 30,000 cardiac arrests that occur outside hospitals where only one in 10 people survives. He wanted to meet the Minister to discuss the fact that when countries give two-hour sessions of emergency life-saving skills, survival rates often increase by up to 50%. That suggests to me that, for this to be worthwhile, 30 minutes will never be enough. My hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray), who has knowledge of the subject, made that point in an earlier intervention. It strikes me that, in order to get a Bill through Parliament, we will be told that a session needs to be only half an hour, but the moment the Bill becomes enacted, the schools will be told that half an hour is not good enough and that they will need to do an hour. When an hour is not good enough, they will be told to do two hours, and then four hours. Schools will never know where the time commitment will end.
Under the provisions of the Bill, as I understand it, the Secretary of State can make regulations in this area, so they will be free to say to schools, “Well, we have looked at this, and half an hour is not enough. You need to do more.” We are not giving schools a commitment to teach as they see fit, but potentially lining up for them much longer times they will have to spend teaching these skills if the half an hour that we have been told about proves to be as insufficient and inadequate as my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall has suggested.
As I said, teachers are best placed to decide on these matters. We should not force them to do anything that is not right for them or their school. We are constantly moving towards an overly prescribed curriculum. That is unhelpful to teachers, who must teach these lessons, and to students, who have to try to juggle more subjects in a limited time. This happens time and again in Parliament. When I was on the Opposition Benches— some might argue that I always sit on the opposition Benches, but when I was on the other side of the House —I remember the Labour Government’s proposal that all schools should be obliged to teach about healthy eating, among other things.
No, absolutely not, and I assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I am not getting sidetracked. My point, which is very relevant to the Bill, is that all these things, very worthy in themselves, are like a salami slicer. We are talking about half an hour here for this, and half an hour there for that. Each half-hour may not in itself seem like a great deal of time out of the school curriculum, but when we put together all the things that a school is obliged to do, we are talking about a serious amount of time—perhaps a full day out of the weekly curriculum. That is what I fear will happen. We cannot take this provision in isolation; we have to look at all the other things piled on schools, and should ask them whether they really have enough time to have yet another thing imposed on them.
I should ask what I often ask on these occasions: if, as we keep being told, this is such a wonderful thing, and there are no downsides, why was the provision never introduced in the 13 years of the Labour Government? The shadow Minister did not explain this very well. I have to wonder whether Labour Members actually have the commitment to this that they would like us to believe. Not only did they not introduce the measure in their 13 years in government, although they had the perfect opportunity to do so, but they spent about an hour and 15 minutes today on two urgent questions and some pointless points of order to delay progress on this debate.
You are absolutely right, Mr Deputy Speaker: it is not about the time. Time carries on, and we carry on with our speeches; time will sort itself out.
As for the flexibility and support that schools have regarding first aid, the Minister for Schools made it clear—we should put this on the record—that there is nothing to stop schools teaching first aid. He said in a parliamentary answer:
“Schools are free to teach emergency life-saving skills and may choose to do so as part of personal, social, health and economic education. The Department…is encouraging schools to purchase …defibrillators…We have also published a guide to defibrillators on school premises”.—[Official Report, 19 January 2015; Vol. 591, c. 17-18.]
The Department has made it clear that schools are already free to do this, and that it does not need to go any further. I also point out that as of 13 November this year, 787 defibrillators have been purchased under the Government’s scheme, so to say that the Government are doing nothing to assist in this area would be completely wrong and misleading. There is an awful lot being done. Much more can be achieved by continuing down a voluntary route than could be achieved by trying, in a ham-fisted way, to mandate things that never seem to work as envisaged.
It is worth pointing out that in May, the Department announced that St John Ambulance would receive more than £250,000
“to build a nation of young first aiders who are resilient, confident and motivated.”
That is part of the Government’s £3.5 million character grant scheme, through which St John Ambulance is training
“600 champions…and 31,500 pupils selected for first aid training, supporting 100,000 pupils… overall. 100 new cadet clubs will also be set up.”
That is a much more valuable way of going about this. An awful lot is being done to give children as much easy access to first aid resources as possible without interfering in the role of schools and teachers.
I acknowledge the fantastic work that school staff members throughout the country do to ensure the safety of children at school. Schools routinely include the needs of pupils when making their first aid needs assessment for staff, and when putting appropriate provision in place. The number of qualified first aiders required will be a part of the school’s first aid needs assessment, and will be based on local circumstances, so it is not as if the provision of first aid in schools is inadequate and we need the measures in the Bill; that is already catered for.
This issue touches on the question of what a school’s role is, and should be; the proposer of the Bill started to go down this route in her argument for the Bill. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester talked about schools’ roles, too.
It was my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan).
I apologise, it was my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan); the Minister is absolutely right. Over the past few decades, there has been a huge change in the perceived role of schools, and parents and politicians have placed increased responsibility on schools. They are now expected to assume responsibility for ensuring that children leave with a rounded education. That includes teaching children about personal and sex education, bullying, mental wellbeing, and society as a whole, as well as teaching them traditional subjects such as maths and science—and Latin, for the benefit of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset.
Personal, social, health and economic education, although a non-statutory subject, is common in school timetables across the country. In primary and secondary schools, it takes an average lesson of 30 minutes or an hour in the weekly calendar, and is an established part of the school day. Despite the fact that the Government should be reducing the regulatory burden on schools, across the country, teachers are expected to assume a pseudo-parental role. We say to parents, “Don’t worry about how you bring up your children, what you enter them in for, or encouraging them to do things, because we’ll cover it all for you.” That is a bad way for the country to go. We should put more responsibility on parents to sort out extra-curricular activities for their children, and less on schools. We are encouraging parents to abdicate their responsibilities. It should be my role to encourage my children to do things out of school that may enable them to get first aid training; we should not always say that it is the school’s responsibility.
A serious effect of the Bill is that it will take up time in the curriculum. Across the UK, and specifically in the district where my constituency is, Bradford, there are too many failing schools. In those circumstances, it is not appropriate to expect either teachers or students to focus on a completely new subject area when, in too many instances, basic maths and English are not up to standard. Recent Ofsted reports highlighted some of these issues. Of one school that received an “inadequate” rating, Ofsted said:
“Students have weak literacy, communication and numeracy skills.”
Against that backdrop, if an extra half-hour, hour or two hours of study should be done during the school day, perhaps focusing on the weak literacy, communication and numeracy skills would be a far better use of students’ time. That may not be the case everywhere, but that is why we have to leave the decision to teachers. When there is extra time in a school, surely it is teachers who know what a pupil would do best to focus on for half an hour, an hour or two hours.
In many schools in Bradford, it is perfectly clear that spending extra time on English would be far more beneficial than a two-hour course in first aid, regardless of whether that is worth while. Some of Bradford’s examination results are extremely poor. In fact, Bradford is one of the most failing local education authorities in the country. Surely we have to get our priorities right for those schools. Many of the teachers in those schools are working incredibly hard to turn them around. They need the support and encouragement to enable their school to give extra tuition in English and maths—those are things that they are trying to do. The last thing they need is for this House and the Government to come in with a sledgehammer and say, “I know you’re really trying to turn around the maths and English qualifications of your pupils, but forget about spending half an hour, or a couple of hours, doing that; your pupils have to do first aid training.” That is why these decisions are best made locally.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. I do not know. Schools would presumably have to muddle through as best they can to meet the requirements of the Bill. I am sure teachers are very good at chopping and changing and muddling through.
As I made clear at the start of my speech, I have contacted all the schools in my constituency and got feedback from some of them. One of them had a “requires improvement” judgment in February 2014, and one reason was that the students’ achievement in both maths and English has not been good enough since 2012. The priority for the school and its leadership team is not to expand the curriculum to make us all feel better about ourselves because we are fulfilling a worthy sentiment; the teachers are working incredibly hard to ensure that their pupils leave as young adults who are equipped with the right level of maths and English to set them up for the future. That is the first priority of our schooling system in this country. We should not sit here and think everything is hunky-dory in all our schools; it is not. Those teachers want help do that difficult job, dealing with some difficult pupils, but the Bill does not give them that support.
The National Literacy Trust states:
“Around 16 per cent, or 5.2 million adults in England, can be described as ‘functionally illiterate’. They would not pass an English GCSE and have literacy levels at or below those expected of an 11-year-old.”
That is a serious problem, which schools should be addressing. The importance of that form of education, which is what parents expect when they send their children to school, cannot be overestimated.
As we have heard from various Members, many people learn their first aid skills with the guides or the scouts. The nub of one of my arguments is that children do not need to learn first aid at school, as there are many organisations and clubs which teach it, including St John Ambulance and the Red Cross. The first aid badge is one of the most important badges that people can get in those organisations. Individuals must show a thorough range of first aid knowledge before they are entitled to the badge. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) referred to the pride that people take in displaying their badge on their uniform when they have earned it through those sessions. The guides first aid badge is valid for only two years, at which point they are required to take the test again in order to keep the badge up to date.
My hon. Friend is making such an important point. When things are done well by the voluntary sector, is it always necessary for the state to come in in a heavy-handed way, get rid of all the good work that is being done by others, and impose its own solution? Is it not better to encourage voluntary activity to flourish?
My hon. Friend is right.
It is clear from what happens at the guides that first aid skills need to be updated My hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall touched on this in an intervention. The guides do it every two years. For it to mean anything at all, schools will have to teach first aid every two or three years, which will mean even more time out of the curriculum. I remember doing a first aid course at school, but I have to admit that if I were faced with a medical emergency, I would struggle to remember all the training I received. In that sense it would be rendered completely useless. That would apply to many of those who would go through first aid training at school, particularly if they were not paying attention because they did not want to be there in the first place.
We in this place would be far better advised to encourage young people to go out and join the guides or the scouts, or to do the Duke of Edinburgh’s award—the bronze, the silver and the gold. That would be a very worthwhile thing for them to do, and as part of that they would get all the emergency first aid training they would ever need. That would be a much more worthwhile message for us to send out—
Order. We have had a lot of examples. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that previous speakers also mentioned good examples. Nobody is disagreeing that there are lots of good organisations, but the Bill is about schools and education. We are in danger of getting into an argument about those who provide training in the voluntary sector and whether they should do it. I know that the hon. Gentleman wants to stick purely to the Bill, which is about first aid provision in schools.
I understand what my hon. Friend is saying. I happen to be president of Herne Bay air cadets, I am heavily involved with the Sea Cadets, and I am involved in the scouts and the guides movements. I am a vice-president of St John Ambulance. I also participate in Duke of Edinburgh’s award schemes. They are all very worthy organisations, but the bottom line, as my hon. Friend knows and as I know, is that the overwhelming majority of children, for whatever reason, do not take advantage of any of those schemes. We are talking about life and death, and he ought to consider that very seriously indeed.
I take my hon. Friend’s point, but I will explain why I do not think first aid is worth teaching in schools. My fear is if we start doing in school all the things that happen at the scouts, the guides and the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, there will be no point in people joining them, and these very worthy organisations—
Order. We are not debating what is provided by the scouts, the guides or anyone else. This is about the provision of first aid training. We do not want to get into all the activities those organisations do or try to compare the two. You understand that, Mr Davies. You are very good.
The point I am trying to make, Mr Deputy Speaker—I apologise if I am making it in a ham-fisted way—is why the Bill is unnecessary. We are discussing whether the Bill should be enacted, and I am making the point—I apologise if I appear to be doing it in a deviant manner, but I assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not doing so intentionally—that the Bill is unnecessary, for the reasons I am giving. I hope that is well within the scope of the debate.
It would be very worth while if everybody joined the scouts. It would be very worth while if everybody joined the guides. It would be very worth while if everybody did the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme. I am not entirely sure that we want to pass a piece of legislation to compel that to happen. Learning first aid is a very desirable thing that we would all want to see, but that does not mean that it follows that it should become mandatory and part of our legislative programme. That is the point that I am making. The issue is not whether it is worth while, but whether it should become compulsory, because, after all, the title of the Bill refers to compulsory first aid in state schools. It applies only to state schools, but we did not hear any reason why that was the case.
My other concern is about implementing the policy. We must always consider the practical implications of rolling out a national policy such as this. In the Bill there is very little detail about how it would be implemented, which comes to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall). Clause 3(1) states:
“The Secretary of State shall, before making regulations under section 85B(4) of EA 2002”—
the Education Act 2002—
“conduct a public consultation about the content and delivery”
of emergency first aid education.
In a 2012 briefing on the campaign for life-saving skills to be taught in schools, the British Heart Foundation and the Resuscitation Council—presumably, they would be key to its implementation—said this about the costs:
“The BHF’s own experience through the Heartstart programme provides one model that can be applied in England. Training supervisors with resuscitation and teaching experience to initially train teachers would provide their training. These teachers would then train replacement teachers in the event of staff changes in their school. Additional costs include venue hire for the training session, which can be reduced if schools are coordinated to have their teachers trained at combined sessions, and supply cover for the teachers to attend the day-long training.”
Unlike my hon. Friend, I support the Bill but I am sure that one thing that unites both of us is our desire for a vote on it. I want to vote firmly in favour of it and he surely wants the opportunity to register his very firm objection against it.
I will plough on with my remarks, Mr Deputy Speaker; such matters are outside my control. If 100 Members are here we will have a vote come what may, whatever I say or do.
There are the costs of the venue hire, training the teachers and training the replacement teachers—this is according to the British Heart Foundation, which goes on to say:
“The largest consumable cost is the initial supply of resuscitation manikins.”
We have not heard about this in the debate so far. The BHF goes on:
“Ideally, in a class of up to 32 there should be one manikin used between two people (16 in total). Schools should have both standard resuscitation manikins and baby manikins. These are one-off costs for the lifetime of the manikin, with annual costs to maintain the equipment. Per school, we estimate that this costs around £2,200 each year. This takes into account the appropriate learning materials required in a programme to aid teaching these life-saving skills to pupils, in addition to general administration and monitoring costs.”
That opens up a whole can of worms: schools will have to find supply teachers—an immense cost—so that teachers can go on a course for a day to learn the first aid information to teach. Even if the teachers do not go on the course themselves, they still need to find time to be taught the first aid information by other teachers. Furthermore, there is the cost of the manikins, mentioned by the British Heart Foundation, as well.
Earlier, I was discussing the problems that schools have. One problem cited by Ofsted is teacher turnover. Continually being required to send new teachers on to training courses is another burden that schools that are already struggling should not have to suffer. When I spoke to people at my local secondary schools about the Bill, that was one of their main areas of concern. Someone at one of the schools outlined their concerns as follows in an email:
“The Academy currently can probably meet this duty as we have a qualified first aid trainer on the associate staff body; however, this would pose difficulties as it would be a requirement to ensure that there is someone with the appropriate level of training on staff—or have to be a brought in provision, to ensure that all young people receive the correct advice”.
That concern was echoed by other schools in my constituency, which were concerned by not only the staffing implications but the time allocation demanded of the school timetable.
Furthermore, schools would have to be required to find room in their budgets to pay for the provisions. We have heard about the cost of the manikins; I also spoke to some prominent union officials who live in my constituency. One said that making first aid education compulsory might not be cost-effective because at the moment first-aiders get a small allowance and training all teachers would be a massive expense. They would probably have to be retrained every three or four years. Is that cost-effective? Probably not.
Those of us who support the Bill see it as an opportunity to educate a whole generation about life-saving skills. My hon. Friend is talking interestingly about cost, and he raises an important point. Would he be more inclined to support the Bill’s direction of travel if there were a clear understanding of the savings to the national health service of having life-saving skills among our population that are not there at present?
No, because as I was going on to say, I do not think we could get an accurate figure on the savings; it would be completely arbitrary. How could we measure the savings? I am concerned about the effect on our schools of the Bill—that is what is before us today and I want to focus on it.
How would first aid education be measured in schools? If we make something compulsory in schools, we have to have some way of measuring that the school is doing it, otherwise it becomes complete nonsense. When people do courses elsewhere, they get a certificate or a badge, which gives them recognition. Presumably, at the end of the session, to check that somebody has got through the training—I am sure the promoter of the Bill will correct me if I am wrong—somebody will have to assess that people have met the required standard. If there were a 30-minute lesson without anyone knowing whether anything had been learned, that would be completely pointless. There would have to be some kind of test to work out that what needed to be learned had been learned. That goes without saying.
Would schools be required to provide some form of examination at the end of the training as a formal recognition or qualification? How would that work? Will there be a national model test that everyone will have to pass at the end of their lessons or will schools have to produce their own test? [Interruption.] I detect from the sedentary chuntering around me that there would be no such test. What on earth is the point of a lesson in first aid without testing whether people have learned what they need to in order to save somebody’s life? Surely the whole point is that people should become capable of saving somebody’s life. What is the point if we do not even know that?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. In all honesty, that makes the whole Bill a farce. Even those in favour of compulsory first aid education would surely agree that if at the end of the training there was no way of measuring whether people had learned anything or got to the standard required to save somebody’s life, the Bill would become a complete and utter nonsense—gesture politics of the worst possible kind.
That is a very good point. When we make something mandatory, it is inevitable, as people are there not because they want to be or are keen to be but because they have to be, that they will not be paying full attention and may learn the wrong lessons on the subject. My hon. Friend has expertise in this area, and we would do well to listen to it. This could, in such cases, make a bad problem worse. We should not think that this is all one-way traffic.
I am sorry that the hon. Lady has made such a ridiculous intervention. What my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall was clearly saying—I think anybody bar the hon. Lady could have understood her point—is that if somebody is in a serious medical situation that may not be life-threatening, administering the wrong treatment could make that non-life-threatening situation into a life-threatening one. That was clearly her point, and I am sorry the hon. Lady is trying to trivialise the matter so much.
I am not trivialising this—it is a very serious matter, and that is why I kept my comments short at the beginning. The hon. Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) referred to CPR, which is usually given when someone’s heart has stopped, and that is what I was talking about. This is not about bleeding, dizziness, or anything like that; it is about a heart condition and CPR. If someone’s heart has stopped, there is a better chance of starting it again with CPR, even if it is not brilliantly executed.
But the hon. Lady’s Bill is not restricted to that—it will cover all sorts of other areas that may not be as she describes. My hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall made a serious point about a serious reservation.
I am very sorry that people seem to think they can come here with a worthy sentiment and expect it just to be nodded through because it is a worthy sentiment. That is not the purpose of this House; the purpose is to try to scrutinise legislation, and some of us take that seriously.
I have been in this House for 32 years, and I think I know my way around the Bill procedures. I think I am right in saying that if a Bill has a Second Reading, it usually then goes into Committee, where it can be studied line by line and, if necessary, amended line by line. I would like to think that given that this is a matter of life and death, my hon. Friend might allow this Bill to have a Second Reading and then allow it to be dissected, if necessary, in Committee.
It is not often that my hon. Friend makes a ludicrous argument, but I am afraid he has just done so. That would be like saying that any Bill should automatically be nodded through on its Second Reading because then we can amend it to how we would like it in Committee. That is not how this place works, as he well knows with his 32 years of service; I hope there will be another 32 years. The point of the Second Reading debate, as he helpfully identified, is to decide whether we agree with the Bill in principle. The principle of this Bill is given away by its title—the Compulsory Emergency First Aid Education (State-Funded Secondary Schools) Bill. I do not agree with the principle of compulsory emergency first aid education in schools, so why on earth would I want to allow such a Bill a Second Reading, any more than he would vote for the Second Reading of a Bill whose principle he disagrees with? That is how this place works.
If this subject is to be added to the national curriculum, as proposed in the Bill, will Ofsted be required to assess and monitor its teaching to see whether schools are fulfilling their obligations under a revised Education Act 2002? Surely it follows that Ofsted must check to ensure that students are being taught appropriately, taught to a high standard, and taught well. It will have to be trained to judge the teachers to assess the level and quality of the first aid lessons they are offering to students. That seems to be another bureaucratic nightmare that Ofsted, and the teachers in the schools it is inspecting, could well do without. Nor do we know how much support the Government are going to give to allow that to happen. That is why I believe that this is better done on a voluntary basis.
I should point out to my hon. Friend that, as it happens, sex education is not compulsory in schools, and long may that be the case, but that is a debate for another day; I am not going to get side-tracked.
The final point I want to make in my brief remarks, during which I have been interrupted on a number of occasions, is about the Bill’s legal consequences for schools. That is one of the serious fears that my schools raised with me when I asked them to consider its implications. In its submission to the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Public Bill Committee in September 2014, St John Ambulance mentioned that 34% of people said that the primary reason people are deterred from intervening in any situation requiring first aid was concern about the legal repercussions. I am glad to say that we have in the Chamber one of the finest legal brains in the country, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox) —and, I might add in passing, the most expensive.
Such a concern was also raised during my consultation with local schools. One headteacher told me that they
“would have concerns that a school could be liable to be sued or held accountable if a student carried out first aid and ‘got it wrong’ and the school had delivered that training”.
That covers the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall, but it has not been touched on during this debate. We must consider such matters in a Bill before we press ahead with a worthy sentiment.
Clause 1(3) specifies that children will be taught which emergency first aid actions are
“appropriate in each such scenario, including the best management of circumstances where a person is or appears to be…unconscious and not breathing,…unconscious and breathing,…choking,…bleeding severely,…having a heart attack, or…having an episode arising from an underlying condition such as asthma or epilepsy”,
and also taught the appropriate deployment of emergency first aid education
“procedures and equipment including…cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and…defibrillators.”
Given that the text in the Bill explicitly sets out that schools will be responsible for teaching when first aid is appropriate as well as how to administer it, the concern raised by the headteacher of my local school is very real. What securities will be put in place to ensure that headteachers, staff and schools are protected from legal action should any first aid be incorrectly administered by a student, given that the Bill, by making it a compulsory element of education, directly creates a point of responsibility? I cannot find any such protections in the Bill.
For clarification, is my hon. Friend suggesting that organisations such as St John Ambulance, which presently teaches first aid to large numbers of cadets, are at risk of legal action if one of their students fails to get their first aid right during an emergency?
I do not know. [Interruption.] I do not know whether such organisations take out any insurance policies along those lines. I genuinely do not know and, from the reaction around the House, it seems that nobody here knows either. One of the things that causes me problems when debating legislation is that we go headlong into such things without anyone knowing what the consequences will be. My points is that without such protections for schools, an unreasonable burden and pressure will be put on them, which is completely outside their remit as teachers and headteachers.
When we consider whether or not something should become law, we should consider the evidence to decide whether there is weight behind the arguments. I do not think we do enough of that. There are examples from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. We have heard nothing about how they relate to the Bill, because it applies only to England. We have not had time to look into that issue either. I am aware that you seem keen to press on, Mr Deputy Speaker, so I will not test the patience of the House by talking about what happens in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, even though I think it is absolutely essential to understand such matters. Given that we are keen to press on with the debate, I will draw my remarks to a close.
I just want to make it clear that we have heard lots of reasons why it would be wonderful for more and more people to learn first aid. I do not think there is any disagreement about that whatsoever. However, we have also ascertained that there are plenty of places at which children can learn first aid if they really want to. I hope that one of the things the Minister will make clear is what the Government can do to encourage more young people to learn emergency first aid. The Government could usefully do that, perhaps by funding other organisations or by making it easier for schools to provide such education. Nobody would disagree with that.
What we disagree with is the compulsory element of the Bill, which would force schools to provide such education. My hon. Friend the Member for Newark said that he could not find a headteacher in his constituency who agreed with the compulsory nature of the Bill. The feedback from my constituency suggests the same. I think we should reflect on what the professionals at the coalface are saying about their concerns before we rush headlong into supporting a Bill. It undoubtedly has a worthy sentiment, but, as I hope I have gone some way to explain, this ill thought through Bill is an absolute dog’s dinner and a can of worms.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce). I am not entirely sure how to follow the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). This campaign was kicked off by my predecessor in 1997. I suspect that one of his biggest regrets is that he did not see it succeed. I hasten to add that there are not many of his campaigns that I will continue, but this is certainly one of them. I therefore support the Bill.
The Bill defines emergency first aid education as
“formal lessons to equip pupils with age-appropriate skills and knowledge required to provide assistance, in the absence of a competent adult, to a person in need of emergency medical attention until medically-qualified personnel are present.”
As my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan) said, doing this is a no brainer. As my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley said, it is obvious. The sad reality is that it is neither of those things, because it is not a statutory obligation.
There are cost implications, as my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley rightly pointed out, although I suspect that some of the costs he raised could be negated through the work of charities and social enterprises. Of course some headteachers will be against this move because there are implications of cost, time and resourcing. Nevertheless, that is not a reason not to support the vital aim of upskilling pupils in our schools and helping them to develop important life skills. Fundamentally and most importantly, this will save lives.
I accept that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) said, the Bill is not without its issues. I mean no offence to the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead in saying that. The Bill puts the onus on teachers to learn and teach first aid. In my view, it should be more flexible. I hope that that can be addressed in Committee to allow social enterprises, volunteers and charities to help. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Dr Mathias) might even want to go to her local school and impart some of her considerable knowledge in this area. My wife is a teacher, albeit at primary level, so I fully understand the pressures on teachers and on the curriculum. There is a part for the third sector to play and the Bill could be tweaked to take that into consideration.
It is a shame that we have to consider legislating on first aid education to make it part of the curriculum. Ideally, I would want it to be part of the citizenship scheme. The national curriculum framework is clear that every state-funded school should teach a curriculum of subjects that
“promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society”
“prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life”.
First aid education clearly fulfils both criteria.
I can understand Ministers’ reluctance to add anything to the curriculum—it is already pretty jam-packed—but let us not forget that swimming is compulsory, as is sex education. Despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley said, there is a statutory obligation to provide sex education; it is just that parents can opt out. It seems to be an anomaly that we teach pupils how to make life but not how to save it.
The Bill seems to be a common-sense piece of legislation that would ensure that all school pupils who go through our state system have the chance to learn life-saving skills. It is right to focus on secondary school, where the pupils are sponges for this kind of information. It has been asked whether this education would be limited and whether the quality would be high enough. Often, pupils get a taster of something in school and then go on to do far more and to expand their breadth of knowledge. If people get a taste for first aid education, I suspect that there will be a much higher take-up in the scouts, guides and St John Ambulance, because they will want to expand their skills.
A number of hon. Members have touched on the Red Cross poll, which showed that 85% of adults agree with this proposal, 84% of secondary school teachers agree, 95% of parents agree and 97% of 11 to 16-year-olds agree. That is pretty compelling.
It is important to recognise that life skills are as important as academia. That is why citizenship is on the curriculum in England. The cost of implementing this measure has been raised—including by me in an earlier intervention—but what about the cost of not implementing it? What about the cost to A and E of all those additional visits that could have been prevented if young people in this country had those initial first-aid skills? What price do we put on life? My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham made that point eloquently when she spoke about her personal experiences.
There are, of course, worthwhile areas of study that are not specifically related to pupils’ academic development, so why not include first aid education on that list? I strongly support the Bill. Indeed, I will upset my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley and say that I think we should go further. We have a big problem with knife crime in this country, and I would like weapons awareness to be included in the curriculum. A fantastic charity in my constituency, Only Cowards Carry, incorporates first aid and weapons awareness within its lessons in schools, but at the moment that is entirely optional.
I do not want to take up too much time, and I would love the Bill to be passed if put to the vote. This seems like a common-sense Bill, and we could create a potential new generation of life savers, starting in our schools. I urge Members to support the Bill.
May I clarify the point that I made in an earlier intervention? If somebody has a pulse that cannot be detected, or if somebody is breathing very shallowly, someone who comes along and starts to administer CPR could do damage to their health. That is the point I was trying to make, and I hope that I have now clarified it. When I did CPR training—which I renew on a three-yearly basis—that point was clearly emphasised.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce). Although I do not agree with the process that she is using to ensure that everybody is aware of basic first aid procedures, the work that she has done to highlight this issue to the wider population and not just in schools is laudable. I pay tribute to her for promoting this Bill. In my opinion, however, making first aid education compulsory could weaken the quality of the good training done by voluntary organisations. We might get a lot of youngsters saying, “I’ve done the 30-minute lesson in school, so why should I bother to go to St John Ambulance?”
I did not make a statement; I said that I was speaking about my personal opinion. I do not want to undermine the superb training that our voluntary organisations already provide. I believe that if we as Members of Parliament went out and used this debate as a basis to say to youngsters, “Why don’t you go along and take up the quality and comprehensive training that is already available outside school hours?”, we might perhaps achieve the same results.
I agree that the wider population should also be educated about first aid, which is why on Wednesday my three members of staff visited Liskeard fire station to receive precisely the type of training that the Bill promotes. However, they must continue with such training, and if the certificates that they receive are to remain valid, they must be renewed every three years. If we make first aid compulsory in state-funded schools, will people continue to update the education that they have received once they move on to further education or university? Will we make that compulsory as well?
I left my employment at the doctors’ surgery the day before I was elected to this House. The CPR training I received when I first started work at the surgery in the early 1990s was different to the training I received just before I was elected to this place in 2010. That is one reason why it is essential for training to be upgraded on a three-yearly basis. I am sure that my hon. Friend, as a medical practitioner, agrees with that. By the way, the doctors I worked for used to come to the training sessions as well. I understand that it is not compulsory for a doctor to take CPR training.
Does my hon. Friend agree, however, that while regular updates are the gold standard, someone who has had even one session of CPR can help as a good Samaritan at some point in their life? It is not ideal to have practised only once, but it will do no damage.
Damage could be done if the person has not had a heart attack. I am just basing what I am saying on what I was told when I did my CPR training.
There are other areas where first aid is already compulsory. For instance, those in the fishing industry have to do first aid training before they can go to sea. Their insurance is invalid if they do not have the up-to-date certificates. They do the training every three years, which backs up what I was saying: a certificate needs to be upgraded, updated or renewed every three years. Other community groups also undertake training, and we now have a lot of first responders in our communities. That is not to say that someone can be a first responder if they say, “I did my compulsory first aid training session at school.”
I really believe it is not right to make training compulsory. I support the concept of promoting first aid and CPR training, and I support educating the wider community that it is okay to follow the instructions on a defibrillator. I cannot, however, support making that compulsory. I will just end with the words of the chief executive of the National Union of Teachers, who said in response to a proposition to extend the school day that teachers are already under enough stress without them having to have more work heaped on them.
As always, it is a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray). I congratulate the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) on her success in the ballot and thank her for bringing this Bill before the Chamber. I also congratulate St John Ambulance, the British Heart Foundation and the British Red Cross, because, whatever we might think about the Bill, one must commend them for their campaign, which has brought this matter to national attention.
I want to concentrate on the concerns of schools in Bury North. I thought it would be good to seek the views of those secondary schools in my constituency that would be affected if the Bill were to become the law of the land. None of the headteachers who responded supported the idea of first aid training being compulsory because most already offered it. I am fortunate in that our schools in Bury North are very well regarded. There is great competition for places. One is being rebuilt, and many parents from outside the area seek to send their children to schools in Bury.
I contacted a school with 1,000 pupils that already teaches emergency first aid to year 7 pupils. We do not need a Bill imposing more red tape and bureaucracy when schools are already teaching first aid of their own free will. It said:
“We feel that it should not be a compulsory part of the curriculum as needs for PSHE change over time and the flexibility should be left to schools.”
Another school said it offered a short first aid course as part of PSHE. Its headteacher stressed that the training could not be in depth because it was costly to cover a full year group of more than 200 pupils. He said that if the training imposed by the Bill was free or under £500, his school could
“gladly buy in to the offer”,
but he went on to say:
“On the other hand, with restrictions due to reduced funding and the expectation schools find this type of funding from existing resources or efficiency savings, I would not advocate it being compulsory.”
It also said it made first aid training available as part of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, in which about 60 of its pupils were taking part. In providing this education, it has to arrange staff first aid training and put in place first responder arrangements, at a cost to the school’s budget.
The school was also concerned about the time made available to teach first aid in greater depth. It said:
“Another aspect is curriculum content versus time available. The consultation on the target of ninety per cent of pupils to undertake the English Baccalaureate will put further strain on an already crowded curriculum.”
As a religious school, it was also concerned that, because 10% of its teaching time was spent on religious education, it was under increased time pressure over and above other schools.
My hon. Friend makes a valid point about religious education, which is of course statutory within the curriculum. When it comes to how religious education is taught, we know that it is a postcode lottery around the country. Does my hon. Friend agree that putting this on a statutory footing will not necessarily mean that it will be taught or indeed taught well?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point that merely passing a piece of legislation and enshrining something in law does nothing to guarantee the outcome at the end of the process, which is what I think we should concentrate on. Perhaps the Minister could address the issue of an overall strategy in his remarks. We as a nation should perhaps be looking more at what we can do for the whole of society by trying to educate not just pupils at school, but adults where they are able and willing to learn, to make it easier for all of us to learn the necessary skills for use in emergency situations.
Another school I contacted had over 800 pupils. It said:
“The school currently provides some emergency first aid training for students. We have also recently trained all teaching staff in…CPR. Our view is that emergency first aid education is a desirable aspect of a school curriculum but should not be compulsory because firstly, there are implications for the training of all staff which would need to be done to a ‘failsafe’ high standard; and, secondly, some knowledge and some manoeuvres could be dangerous. We do feel that all schools should be encouraged to develop and cover key aspects as a minimum, but determine what and how training should be delivered.”
That is a fundamentally important point. We should encourage life-saving skills and encourage interest in the issue, but not simply prescribe it as a minimum requirement.
All the schools I contacted in my constituency, then, are supportive of the concept of teaching first aid, but they have concerns about the cost implications and the timetabling. Crucially, as I know from speaking to them, they do not want it to be made compulsory.
I am sure I am not alone in this place in finding that whenever I talk to teachers, it is not long before the subject of workload comes up. The very first thing teachers often say to me is, “Look, we are absolutely over-burdened with red tape and bureaucracy.” In 2013, the Department for Education carried out a workload diary survey, which found that teachers spent on average 12 hours a week working outside normal hours. It found that on average, all teachers reported working over 50 hours a week, with headteachers working in excess of 60 hours a week.
On the basis of those figures, it is understandable why some teachers, while supporting the concept of first aid training and education—who would not, if asked in a survey?—have some reservations. I am a bit sceptical about this survey that we keep hearing about. I have not seen the details of it. We keep hearing that virtually all teachers are supportive of this training and education, but I think we need to look at how the question was asked. If the question had been linked with the notion that “by the way, we are going to increase your workload”, I think we might have found a different response.
The hon. Gentleman has raised a number of concerns about school funding and workload, but I feel he is in danger of deviating from the topic of the debate. He has raised some interesting challenges for the Minister, too, so I wonder when he is going to conclude his remarks so that we can hear from the Minister. I, for one, have a constituency surgery to get on to, and I would like to vote before I leave.
I am not sure whether there was a question in that intervention, but if I am in order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall carry on. I shall try to ensure that there is time for us to hear from the Minister, but I have some concerns about the Bill, and I think it fair to point out that it would place an additional requirement on teachers. That, surely, must be a matter of fact.
Does my hon. Friend not consider it striking that plenty of people who are in favour of the Bill have made the assertion that teachers are in favour of it, but he and I, and our hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick)—who have actually spent time speaking to teachers in our local schools—have found something different?
My hon. Friend is right. That is what causes me to have some doubts about the opinion poll whose findings keep being quoted at us. When I have actually spoken to people about the issue, I have received a slightly different answer, which is why I think we need to look at the questions that were asked in the poll.
Absolutely. We do not know who commissioned it, or whether those who did so were hoping to get the answers that are being reported—or, indeed, whether they commissioned some reports that have never seen the light of day.
The issue of the burden on teachers is raised with me by teachers themselves. If the Bill became law, it would undoubtedly result in their having to do extra work in schools where they do not already teach this subject.
Another element is the cost of the Bill. I will not repeat the points that were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies)—
Ah. My hon. Friend has made a good point. We have been given no detailed explanation of exactly how this training is to be delivered in schools, but I believe that, however it is delivered, its delivery will result in some additional cost to the education system. I am sure that we shall hear more about this from the Minister when he gives us the Government’s view in a few minutes’ time, but I should have thought that the Bill would require a money resolution.
My hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) said that there was a danger that if the training was not carried out to a given standard, and was not tested properly, some further injury could be inflicted on someone, albeit unwittingly and with the best of intentions. Sometimes, as the phrase goes, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. We keep hearing that money will be safe for the NHS, but there is a danger that the NHS could end up with larger bills because people who think they know what they are doing are actually making things worse. That may not happen, but there is a danger that it could.
I apologise for not being in the Chamber earlier. I had to attend to other business.
I think that what we are being asked to do is give the Bill a Second Reading. It is perfectly right that the hon. Gentleman wants a lot more detail, but I am sure he would be very welcome to serve on the Committee should he allow the Bill to make progress today. He could then raise all these points, and they could all be answered satisfactorily. Will he now please let us move on?
Order. That is a decision for the occupant of the Chair. I will decide what is in order and what is not in order. It is in order. I did see the Member come in. I did make a note. I do not have to explain myself and I will not be questioned again on the matter.
To deal briefly with the intervention, as my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley said a moment or two ago—I do not know whether the right hon. Lady heard his comment—if there were 100 Members here who wanted to close the debate and the occupant of the Chair was in agreement, I would be happy for that to happen. However, my concerns cannot be dealt with in Committee because I am concerned about the principle of the Bill. I oppose it in principle—not just some minor details. I do not think that my concerns could be addressed simply by sitting down and letting the Bill go through to Committee.
I mentioned earlier that I had surveyed the secondary schools in my constituency. One reason why I felt it was important to do that is that, according to the records I keep in my office, about a dozen people have contacted me about the Bill. Most of the dozen—there are one or two exceptions—have simply sent me a standard letter, which is in identical form to all the other contacts I have had. Therefore, with over 67,000 constituents, 99.9-odd per cent. have not contacted me about the matter. I would therefore suggest that it is not an overwhelmingly pressing matter for my constituents, as some would have us believe.
I have concerns about the actual content of the Bill. It is not clear from the Bill how the training would be assessed or to what standard the training would be delivered. The impression has often been given in the debate that it is all about CPR and the use of defibrillators. However, in new section 85B(2)(d), introduced by clause 1(3), there is a long list of subjects that would have to be covered. I do not see how that could all be covered in half an hour in assembly. The reality is that the training will take quite a lot of planning. It will take several hours over a period of time. We have not been told what year the pupils will be in when they receive the training—is it the first, second, third, fourth or fifth year of secondary?
The Bill does say that there will be a consultation. Forgive me, but I would have thought that it was a good idea to have the consultation before we had the Bill. It seems to be a cart before the horse strategy. Rather than provide for a consultation in the Bill, surely it would have been a good idea to have had the consultation. We could then have had the debate on stronger ground.
I have rather slimmed down my comments because I want to hear from the Minister. In conclusion, I believe the idea of having a nation where everyone has the skills necessary to save someone else’s life in an emergency is a very worthy one indeed, but I am not convinced this Bill is the right starting place to achieve that aim. I believe in the current position where schools have the freedom to make their own arrangements and, as I have explained, teachers are doing that so well in my constituency. I thank them for their excellent work, and I think they should be allowed to get on with it unhindered by legislation and yet more bureaucracy. Many teachers are already worried about their workload, and we should ask ourselves whether this is the right time to add to their burdens.
Emergency first aid skills can already be taught and I certainly recommend that every pupil should seek out opportunities to learn those skills. I believe individuals should have the freedom to make their own decisions on first aid training. That is the better way to truly create a nation of life savers. For all these reasons, I oppose this Bill.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) on securing this debate. She rightly pointed out that nothing is more important than keeping children and the staff who educate them safe in our schools.
Emergency first aid skills are therefore very important. Having the skills to deal with emergencies such as severe bleeding, heart attacks, choking or episodes arising from an underlying condition such as asthma or epilepsy can save lives. It is also vital that people know how to summon emergency services in such situations.
Cardiac arrest can affect anyone at any time, regardless of whether they have previously been diagnosed with a cardiac condition. When such incidents affect children, it is terribly tragic. Unfortunately, there have been a number of tragic incidents in schools in which children have suffered sudden cardiac arrest and could not be resuscitated. The number of such incidents is, thankfully, very low, but of course every child, teacher and member of support staff who dies in this way is one too many.
Let us be clear: nothing is more important than keeping children and the staff who educate them safe in our schools. That is why I welcome the opportunity to discuss this important issue and to set out what the Government are doing in this regard.
We have done much to improve the way in which children are kept safe in school. For example, we have introduced a new duty requiring governing bodies of maintained schools, academy proprietors and management committees of pupil referral units to put in place appropriate arrangements to support children’s medical needs. I set this out because as we delve deeply into this debate, we need to appreciate the context within which the Bill is being introduced.
Most schools already had satisfactory arrangements in place and therefore were not required to do anything new. However, poor practice can make children miss school unnecessarily and fall behind in their studies. At its worst, it can be life-threatening.
Through the Department for Education introducing the new duty, parents can ensure they have a better experience of getting the right support for their children with medical needs. We have published accompanying guidance, “Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions”, and this is being used extensively by schools and parents. Crucially, we have also encouraged all schools to consider purchasing automated external defibrillators as part of their first aid equipment, making use of the new statutory guidance. To facilitate that, we have launched arrangements enabling schools to purchase high-quality defibrillators at a significantly reduced price. We have done that by working in partnership with the Department of Health to open up to schools the procurement routes used by many of our country’s ambulance services, and by purchasing large numbers of devices to achieve significant savings.
Of course, buying an automated external defibrillator —an AED—is only part of the story. In a cardiac arrest situation, every second is important. Schools therefore need to have an understanding of the devices and their capabilities and the knowledge to position them accessibly and close to where they are most likely to be needed. That is why we have also produced a new guide, developed in collaboration with the NHS ambulance services and a range of voluntary and community sector stakeholders. It covers issues such as positioning, staff awareness training and the maintenance of AEDs on school premises. The guide is clear on the importance of defibrillation and CPR in the chain of survival.
Schools will of course already have first-aiders trained in CPR, but there is no reason why they cannot use the purchase of an AED as an impetus to promote the knowledge of these skills more widely in the school community, among staff and pupils alike. Indeed, we suggest this in our guide and hope that many will choose to do it. To facilitate this, we highlight the fact that many NHS ambulance services, voluntary and community sector organisations and local authorities already offer free or low-cost training to schools.
Will my hon. Friend congratulate the organisations such as St John Ambulance, the British Red Cross and the British Heart Foundation that help to provide this kind of training? Will he also congratulate the local Lions clubs that have helped to fund community purchases of defibrillators?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. A wide range of organisations have worked tirelessly over the years to make emergency first-aid training available not only in schools but more widely throughout our communities.
The widespread availability of defibrillators in our nation’s schools also has the potential to be of wider benefit to society. School premises and facilities are often used for other purposes outside school hours. In particular, they are frequently the location for sports events and other types of physical activity, which we know can increase the risk of cardiac arrest in at-risk individuals.
Schools are also at the centre of their communities. The guide therefore suggests that, if they choose to purchase one or more AEDs, they might wish to consider making the devices externally accessible when such an arrangement also meets the needs of the school. Installing a publicly accessible defibrillator may be particularly helpful in isolated areas, where ambulance response times are typically longer. Many schools have viewed this as a tangible way in which they can give something back to the communities they serve. I am pleased to confirm that by the end of last week, 787 defibrillators had been purchased under the scheme.
Of course, access to an AED is only part of the story. Every second is important when someone suffers a cardiac arrest, and first aid skills are vital to ensuring that help is available when it is most needed. The guide is therefore clear on the importance of both defibrillation and CPR in the chain of survival. Schools will, of course, already have first-aiders trained in CPR, but there is no reason why they cannot use the purchase of an AED as an impetus to promote further knowledge of these skills, as I have said.
Some have argued that, because of the good intentions behind the Bill, it should go through on the nod today and continue into Committee. The hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead made a powerful case that we should go further. She argued for the provision of emergency first-aid education in all state-funded secondary schools, including academies and free schools. She also argued for that education to include cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and defibrillator awareness. She argued for first-aid education to be included in initial teacher training and continuing teacher education. Finally, she made the case for the Government to publish best practice guidance for delivering and inspecting emergency first-aid education.
This is not a simple Bill. I recognise the hon. Lady’s intention to ensure that more people have the kind of knowledge and skills that can prove so valuable in assisting a child or colleague suffering a cardiac arrest. I am afraid, however, that I do not share her view that such an addition to the national curriculum would be the best approach to securing her objective.
My hon. Friend has made some very good points during this debate and she makes another one there. In thinking about this Bill, the intentions are important but we also have to consider how we implement it across thousands of schools to make sure that every child receiving this gets the highest-quality training and that it is refreshed at the appropriate times.
The new national curriculum, which has been mentioned a number of times, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), introduced in September 2014, represents a clear step forward for schools. It provides an outline of core knowledge around which teachers can develop exciting and stimulating lessons to promote the development of pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills as part of the wider school curriculum. It will ensure that all children have the opportunity to acquire the essential knowledge in key subjects. Beyond primary English, mathematics and science, the slimmer national curriculum gives teachers greater flexibility to innovate in how they teach and to develop new approaches that will engage children in their education more effectively.
I do want to make some progress. We want the new national curriculum to last, rather than having to be updated every few years. The new national curriculum is based on a body of essential knowledge that children should be expected to acquire in key subjects during the course of their school career. It embodies for all children their cultural and scientific inheritance, enhances their understanding of the world around them, and exposes them to the best that has been thought and written. That essential knowledge should not change significantly over time.
It has somehow been routine for Education Ministers to come to this place to make the case against the inclusion of a particular new requirement in the national curriculum. Such proposals, like the one in this Bill, are often supported by a persuasive argument, but their sheer number means that I start from a position of caution. I have to read out some of the topics that have been suggested for inclusion in order to make Members aware of the sheer burdens that people wish to be imposed on the national curriculum. The topics include: understanding the causes and issues around homelessness; teaching children about their rights in the context of forced marriage; teaching against violence; understanding transgender issues; knowledge about the health dangers of tobacco; understanding animal welfare; anti-bullying, including online bullying; the risks and dangers of gambling; promoting gender equality; knowledge about cancer and how to cope when cancer affects your life; knowledge of the symptoms of brain tumours in young people; fire and road safety, as was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Will Quince); positive body image; the UN declaration on the rights of the child; the dangers of carbon monoxide; gardening; knife crime—
I am glad that you have grasped the point so quickly, Mr Deputy Speaker. Some of those proposals are niche, to say the least, but when made they all have a strong and persuasive argument behind them, with support from a strong campaign. If we were to include each of them in the national curriculum, we would have to ask what they displace, how we account for the time and how things develop. If the Government were to tell schools that they should teach about the dangers of tobacco, about gardening and about road safety along with every one of the issues that I listed earlier, we would be prescribing a very long list of specific content that should be covered, which would be unproductive. It could lead to a tick-box approach, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) mentioned, that does not properly address the most important issues.
The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 11(2)).
Ordered, That the debate be resumed on Friday 29 January 2016.