Life-saving Skills in Schools

Part of Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 1:32 pm on 22nd November 2012.

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Photo of Anne Marie Morris Anne Marie Morris Conservative, Newton Abbot 1:32 pm, 22nd November 2012

The right hon. Lady makes an appropriate and fair point. As they say in business, what gets measured gets done. We have training in this country, but it is not measured. There is no record of how much CPR is included. ELS is included in personal, social, health and economic education, but it is not consistent. We consequently do not get the results that other countries get.

Why do we raise the issue of life-saving skills now? In part, because we have the evidence, some of which I have just shared with the House, but there is also clear public support. In response to the British Heart Foundation survey in February 2011, 86% of teachers said ELS should be included in the curriculum, and 78% of children said they wanted to be taught it. The evidence is that they enjoy it, and that it gives them a broader sense of self-worth and value within the community. Seventy per cent. of parents believe it should be taught. This will not be an uphill battle, because everybody wants it.

There was a moment when ELS became front and foremost in everyone’s thinking—when Fabrice Muamba tragically collapsed on the football pitch in March. But for an individual with ELS skills coming on to the pitch, he may not have survived as well as he has. That led to the Love Heart campaign in The Sun—well done to T he Sun; that was a great campaign that attracted a lot of support. Ultimately, a petition of 130,000 signatures was delivered, asking for us to ensure that we have ELS training in schools. Support in the charitable and third sectors is huge. The British Heart Foundation, the British Medical Association, Cardiac Risk in the Young, St John Ambulance and the Red Cross support it—I could go on, but I am conscious that time is not on my side.

As hon. Members have said, there are some great examples of the community providing training voluntarily. Dawlish community college in my constituency does one whole day on emergency life-saving skills for year 10s. A recent Ofsted report found the school to be good, and outstanding for leadership and management. Doesn’t that show?

What is the way forward? The first option is that we could continue with the status quo, but as we have seen, results are patchy. ELS is included in PHSE, but it is not mandatory or delivered consistently. CPR is often not included. My view is that we will not achieve what we need to achieve as a society with the status quo.

The second option is making ELS a mandatory piece of the PHSE curriculum. Under the current review, although PHSE will not be mandatory, the Minister has said that bits of it will be identified and made so. ELS could be included in the science or physical education curriculums. The Minister could also consider including it as a compulsory element in teacher training, so at least our teachers will have the training. She could also think about including it as a necessary part of the National Citizen Service programme.

The second option has been debated on many occasions, and the objections to it have been very much the same each time. Let me briefly rehearse them and say why they no longer stand ground. The first argument is that the curriculum is too full and teachers need choice. I agree that the curriculum is too full and that we need to ensure that the core subjects are taught well, but I also agree with choice. It is appropriate to consider what is included in PHSE. When the matter was last debated, even my hon. Friend Tim Loughton, who was then the answering Minister, could see the priority of ELS. He was lobbied to include knitting in PHSE, but agreed that knitting simply does not have the same value as ELS. It is perfectly possible both to include it and to retain flexibility in the curriculum. As I have said, it is only a two-hour course. On choice, we could say to schools, “It is compulsory, but you have the choice of including it in PHSE, science or PE, but it must be measured by Ofsted.” That would give flexibility.

The second argument usually advanced against the proposal is cost and resource. The British Heart Foundation has estimated that it will cost £2,200 a year per school, but that is not a huge amount of money. The charitable sector, trainee doctors and general practitioners can get involved in teaching on a voluntary basis. They will do it for free, and the cascade principle says that if we teach the teachers, they will teach others and so on. I suspect that the number of people wanting to get involved and to help for free would make this a relatively inexpensive activity.

We must set that against the cost to the public purse. If an increasing number of people have brain damage when they need not have it and are kept on life support machines in hospitals, or if there is an increasing number of people who survive but who must be supported at home, the bill goes up. A day in hospital costs £400 or £500. As hon. Members know, disability living allowance can be £131 a week. That adds up to a sizeable bill. It is not just about money—there is also a cost to the family and society. As a nation, we believe in prevention rather than cure. The question, therefore, is not whether we can afford to do this, but whether we can afford not to.