First aid blog

Wednesday 28 February 2018

First Aid on the National Curriculum

There's a lot of discussion from training providers on the idea that First Aid should be included in the National Curriculum so that it will be mandatory for all children. This sounds like a fantastic idea and I can’t think of a single sensible argument against the concept ...


A topic that has received a lot of discussion from training providers over the years is the idea that First Aid should be included in the National Curriculum so that it will be mandatory for all children. This sounds like a fantastic idea and I can’t think of a single sensible argument against the concept (nor have I ever heard one from someone else – please feel free to get in touch if you think you have one).

Despite this, as well as campaigns and support from high profile groups such as 38 Degrees, the teachers’ register and the Liberal Democrat party, First Aid has still yet to be included.

Support for the idea is high with both teachers and students (last numbers I saw were suggesting support from about 83% of teachers and over 90% from students) which provides even more weight to the campaign. I know that I personally have delivered training to students in school for free (and I believe that many other instructors have done the same) in order to spread the skill of First Aid Training to as many people as possible as early as possible.

So why isn’t it happening and is there anything that we can do about it?

Three main issues (that I can verify) have been raised against versions of the proposed bills. Firstly, the amount of time allocated towards it (3 hours a month at primary school age and 2 hours a month at secondary school age). Secondly, many have queried the capability of primary school children in learning First Aid, and whilst some of the topics suggested could well go beyond what the younger children would be able to identify and correctly treat, basic ideas such as how to contact the emergency services and how to place someone in the recovery position are skills that I have taught to children from ages 5 and up with high degrees of understanding and success.

So perhaps our first priority is to not get so caught up in what we want our children to learn that we overpopulate it. Whilst I would not suggest that 3 hours a month is too much time per se, I concede that that amount of training within school hours is at least impractical. Monthly training would certainly be useful, but perhaps the most efficient route would be to have two Friday afternoons (a time of the week that many schools devote to broader topics within the range of PSRE, citizenship and other such terms) on consecutive weeks devoted to it once a term. That only works out to about 12 hours a year and therefore shouldn’t negatively impact timetable structuring. On the flipside, a lot of comments have suggested that more time should be allocated to secondary school children practicing First Aid, but personally I’ll take any amount of time above 0 hours 0 minutes for the time being.

The third argument was cost, which is always going to be relevant. Some momentum seemed to be behind the idea of utilising various voluntary aid societies to deliver the courses for free, but that unfortunately demonstrates an extreme misunderstanding of how such societies operate. It is important at this point to state outright that yes, these companies are often my primary competition for work and that I could therefore have an agenda in suggesting that other options are used instead. All I can say in response is that the majority of my clients are now my clients because I, like most other suppliers out there, charge comprehensively less for the majority of services than said competitors do. Even so, reduction of cost would still be paramount.

Let’s see what we can do about that….

Main costs for running training sessions are going to be:

  • The trainer’s time
  • Travel and parking
  • Fees for certificating and providing manuals
  • Upkeep of equipment

There’s only one that we can’t do anything about and that’s upkeep of equipment. Certain things are necessary (though perhaps far less at a primary school level) though handily the running costs are not huge.

Travel and parking is easily minimised by using local trainers and giving them a parking space. Almost negligible.

Fees for certificating and manuals can also be almost entirely eliminated. Get the school access to downloadable pdfs instead of paper manuals, and don’t certificate the training. This reduces it to almost nil.

As for the fee for the trainer’s time, if we’re adding extra work that hasn’t previously been available, we can give government guidance on how much a trainer should be charging. Ordinarily I’m a big supporter of higher wages than a lot of companies pay their trainers, but in this case (as long as the other suggestions re: local sourcing, parking and manuals are enacted) I think a lot of trainers would be more than happy to work for a lower than normal wage (especially those of us who have given up our spare time to do it for free in the past).

There is, however, another possible barrier that I can’t find anyone actively discussing, but that I suspect is a reason for the government resisting the addition of First Aid Training onto the national curriculum. That is VAT.

VAT is added on to a lot of goods and services sold in the UK but there are also many that are exempt. First Aid is not exempt. But that would change if it finds its way onto the National Curriculum, as anything included within the National Curriculum is exempt from VAT. Losing out on all the tax generated from First Aid training revenue would be negative for the economy. But this would only be in the short term – longer term, a higher percentage of people knowing First Aid will help to reduce the strain on the NHS, leaving its time and funds more available to deal with major injuries and illnesses.

There’s plenty more for potential discussion here, so if you want to have a dialogue about it then drop me an email. Otherwise, I’ll see you next month for another blog post.

Take care and check for danger.