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School Curriculum: First Aid Training and Home Nursing

Volume 817: debated on Thursday 16 December 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to include (1) first aid training, and (2) home nursing, as core parts of the school curriculum.

My Lords, we know that first aid and good care saves lives. Schools are now required to teach first aid as part of statutory health education. Pupils are taught how to deal with common injuries, call the emergency services, administer CPR and understand the purpose of defibrillators. Schools have the flexibility to deliver content that meets the needs of their pupils, such as learning about caring for others.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. I asked one of the most experienced paramedics in Norfolk what he thought would save most lives in the National Health Service in his field. His answer was: “Please include teaching standard cardiopulmonary resuscitation—CPR—in the school curriculum, especially as you can no longer give the kiss of life, along with basic first aid and home nursing classes”. However, could these classes be taught not just once a term but every week? UK ambulances attend 60,000 calls every year, with many calls made through a lack of basic knowledge. A degree of serious teaching, as evidence shows, saves three times as many lives and would save the National Health Service millions of pounds. Can the Minister take this to her department as a project for 2022?

As I said in response to my noble friend’s main Question, all state-funded schools are required to teach first aid and the curriculum includes CPR. We have also recently issued implementation guidance to schools, which says that they should decide the most appropriate method of teaching. Many use excellent charities to help them implement that training.

My Lords, I am sorry to say this, because I know the noble Baroness raised this Question in good faith, but it is unhelpful because it deflects from the pressing need for the national curriculum to be rescued from the confines imposed upon it by the English baccalaureate. The EBacc comprises the subjects most sought after by Russell group universities; it does not cater for young people who want to pursue the arts and creative subjects, such as design and technology, drama or music. Does the Minister have any concerns about young people being force-fed subjects that may not be in their best interests, and is it now the time to think about adding a sixth pillar to the EBacc?

I hear the noble Lord’s level of concern, but the EBacc gives pupils the foundational skills and knowledge they need to pursue a very wide variety of careers. As he and I debated over many hours during the skills Bill, there are also lots of opportunities in both T-levels and BTECs to pursue a range of other careers.

My Lords, I chaired the Sub- Committee on Allergy in 2007, which recommended adrenaline autoinjectors in schools, which are now available. Can the Minister confirm whether teenagers—a third of whom with allergies are known often not to carry their adrenaline injectors with them—and the risk of bleeding out from stab injuries to them are specifically targeted in first-aid teaching in senior schools?

If I may, I will write to the noble Baroness with more detail, but the spirit of the guidance is certainly that schools have an element of discretion, and rightly so, in what they include in their curriculum. However, she will be aware that we are doing a great deal of work in relation to stab injuries and violent crime.

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, wishes to speak virtually. I think this is a convenient point for me to call her.

My Lords, I watched primary schoolchildren get involved in these classes some years ago and saw CPR being taught in a secondary school. To what year groups do the Government intend to teach these excellent skills? It is all right doing it just for seniors, but what about primary school- children as well?

The noble Baroness is absolutely right, and the curriculum is also included in all primary schools in an age-appropriate manner.

My Lords, would my noble friend agree that one of the best ways of teaching first aid in schools is through the Combined Cadet Force? The Government’s school cadet expansion programme has a target of 60,000 young people participating by next year. Can my noble friend tell us how far along the road we are with that? I remind your Lordships of my charitable interest as chairman of the Cadet Vocational Qualifications Organisation.

My noble friend is right to bring attention to the CCF and the great work that it does. But I am sure he would agree that there are a number of other organisations, such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the National Citizen Service, that also focus on equipping young people with a range of skills, including first aid. I will write to my noble friend with an update on recruit numbers.

My Lords, I wonder if I could draw two answers together by asking the Minister if she agrees that, apart from the important health benefits already mentioned, there is a social dividend in what is being suggested? As with playing an instrument, as we have just heard, or drama, the self-esteem resulting from an acquired discipline and the ability to help others promotes social cohesion and friendliness.

I agree with the noble Lord. The curriculum supports the development of a range of essential behaviours and life skills promoting confidence, team working, emotional well-being, compassion and resilience.

My Lords, first aid and CPR are not available in the curriculum in Northern Ireland. To address this, my colleague in the Northern Ireland Assembly has brought forward a Private Member’s Bill to introduce CPR as part of the curriculum and have it available in all types of schools. Will the Minister use her great offices when meeting ministerial colleagues in the devolved Administrations to encourage them down this route as a safety measure and part of good curriculum education?

I am delighted to reassure the noble Baroness on that account and to share that with my ministerial colleagues in the department.

My Lords, it has been mentioned that the kiss of life is no longer part of CPR because of Covid, but in fact it was given up before that because it was recognised that there was enough oxygen in the blood. The great thing is to get the circulation going as the essential part of CPR.

My Lords, many children of black and Asian descent suffer from sickle cell. Will the noble Baroness consider getting schools to talk about sickle cell and teach children, when a child in their class has a crisis, about what they are going through?