First, the good news.
Earlier today, the Labour Party announced its intention to teach all school pupils how to provide CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) for someone experiencing cardiac arrest.
So far, so good. Cardiac arrest can kill in minutes, so the more young people trained to help the better.
But suppose one of those CPR-trained pupils came across someone with a nasty cut or burn injury, or having an asthma attack. What would they be expected to do then?
Eager to learn
Currently, British schools have no obligation to teach students about first aid, despite the obvious benefits such education would bring.
The British Red Cross has been campaigning for years to get first aid on to the curriculum. We think everybody should know how to save a life.
And unsurprisingly, students themselves – a whopping 91 per cent of them – would relish the opportunity to learn life-saving skills.
That’s why this latest move to provide CPR training, while a step in the right direction, isn’t quite enough.
(It’s a bit like a driving instructor teaching someone how to use the emergency brakes, but then missing out steering, indicating and clutch control.)
If they’re going to be equipped to help, students absolutely need to be taught the full range of first aid skills. And we already know it would be time well spent.
Each year, the Red Cross reports on many young people doing amazing things – the teen who saved his stabbed friend, the pupils who helped a collapsed pensioner, the 12-year-olds who helped their friend with a deep gash to his knee.
These stories show how, with just a bit of training, young people can be an incredible force for good. They just need the opportunity.
Time for action
What’s needed now is a firm commitment to include first aid as a compulsory part of the school curriculum. And with election season on the horizon, now seems an ideal time.
We strongly encourage our political leaders to make first aid education mandatory for all primary and secondary students. It’s a relatively simple step, but would have a huge impact.
By acting now, our politicians could help ensure the next generation will be much more skilled, resilient and ready to help their fellow citizens. No matter what their injury.
Find out more about our first aid advocacy work.
What are the Red Cross’ key asks for this year’s General Election?
Why do some people with first aid skills still feel afraid to act? Read our blog.