As a parent and former school governor, I believe that keeping children and staff safe in our schools is of huge importance. Schools presently have the opportunity to teach skills such as CPR and more general first aid training as part of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education. While the content of these lessons is up to individual schools, they are encouraged to work with expert organisations to teach such skills.
However, it is my feeling that legislating to include a requirement for first aid training in the national curriculum would be the wrong approach. The national curriculum creates a minimum expectation for the school programme and, quite deliberately, it does not prescribe everything that a school should teach. It is a framework around which schools can construct the programme which works best for them. In addition, schools do not have a monopoly on the provision of education to children, as parents and voluntary groups outside school also play an important role.
There are many similar issues which the Government is frequently called upon to include in the national curriculum. However simply dictating a long list of compulsory subjects might easily result in a box-ticking exercise and prevent schools from focusing on what is important for their pupils and communities. Schools should be encouraged and supported in teaching vital skills such as first aid, but forcing them to do so in law is not the best way to achieve this.
I am encouraged that a deal to offer an initial 500 defibrillators to schools at reduced prices was announced last year. New guidance was given which included encouraging schools to use these devices as an impetus to promote life-saving skills more broadly.