First aid in schools

Written by: HTU | Published:

Jess Hubbard from St John Ambulance offers advice to schools that have decided to offer first aid teaching for their pupils.

The case for first aid education in schools is simple: everyone should be given the opportunity to learn the skills needed to save a life. 

Not only is it fun and easy to learn, it also provides children with the chance to develop confidence and leadership skills along with the knowledge that they can help others when it is needed most.

The concept has huge support. In a recent survey by St John Ambulance, 97 per cent of teachers expressed their enthusiasm for young people learning first aid in school. Yet, when questioned only 21 per cent were able to offer the training in their own educational establishments, citing a lack of time and funding as barriers.

We understand that as a bolt-on to the national curriculum, first aid training cannot be consuming on time or resource. So how can we break down these barriers to ensure that we can equip the next generation with first aid knowledge?

Introducing first aid to classes

For headteachers interested in bringing first aid into their schools, there are two paths they can choose.

Schools are already obliged to have a number of first-aiders among their staff, to ensure the safety of their colleagues and pupils. By combining this knowledge with just a few of St John Ambulance’s free teaching resources, their existing skills can be used to provide training to young people directly – adding hundreds more potential life-savers to every playground. 

For schools looking to take this cost-effective and time-friendly route, we would only recommend that in addition to using the teaching resources, they attend refresher training every three years to ensure that they are teaching the latest techniques and to refresh their knowledge.  

Alternatively, students can learn directly from trainers at community classes or by inviting the trainer in-house to visit students at the school. This option lessens the inevitable preparation time that comes with traditional lesson planning. 

There are courses available to meet every school’s needs, with the option to tailor many to the age of the pupils and the amount of time the school has available. There are also options that allow teachers to build their own courses from scratch if desired – as we know that the most worthwhile courses are those that have been specifically designed to be fun and interactive, while aiding learning. 

You are never too young to learn the skills to save a life. First aid resources are available to introduce children from key stage 1 onwards to first aid; however we do find that young people aged seven and over are most engaged in this type of training. The first aid sessions typically cover a variety of techniques that we know young people can administer, including treatment for choking, asthma and bleeding. In many cases, young people can even be taught CPR from age seven, so that they, or someone they are able to instruct, can save a life.

Learning from best practice

While the standard and frequency of first aid education across the country still has some way to go, there are a growing number of schools that are leading the way. One such school is Parkland Primary in Leicestershire, which was recently named Top of the Class at St John Ambulance’s Everyday Heroes awards ceremony. 

The category recognises those who have gone above and beyond to educate the life-savers of tomorrow. Parkland prides itself on the first aid facilities it has to protect its pupils, employees and the wider community.  

All of the school’s 500 young people (aged between four and 11) are given the opportunity to attend basic first aid sessions and every teacher is given basic first aid training, with regular refreshers to keep their knowledge up-to-date.

And while the teaching of first aid is obviously at the very top of their agenda, Parkland Primary has also ensured that its young people are in safe hands by updating their own safety provisions. 

By installing a medical first aid cabinet and folder in every classroom, teachers are aware of any pre-existing conditions and are well-equipped in case of an emergency. As well as this, the school was the first in its county to install an AED (automated external defibrillator) in the school hall, a life-saving device which is not only available for the school’s use but also for members of the wider community, should an emergency occur.

First aid in primary education

While it would be fantastic to see every school take the lead from Parkland Primary, we know that there are both time and financial constraints. In the hopes of combating this, for the first time ever, St John Ambulance is offering the opportunity to take a whole-school approach to training – teaching students from more than 1,000 schools all at once.

The Big First Aid Lesson – a free, one-hour, online first aid session streaming live and direct into classrooms, takes place on June 20.

By giving every pupil just one hour of first aid training, they could be the difference between life and death. And with more than eight million young people in education in this country alone, what better place to start than by signing up to the Big First Aid Lesson.

  • Jess Hubbard is young people’s programme officer at St John Ambulance.

Further information

To sign up or for more information about first aid in schools, visit

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