Children learning CPR in a classroom

Various respected healthcare and cardiovascular research organisations, including the RCUK, the BHF and the ERC, as well as the UK Government itself, have identified the benefits of teaching BLS, such as CPR and defibrillation, to children.

In a previous article regarding the crucial role that bystander CPR training can play, we touched on the benefits of teaching Basic Life Support (BLS) skills to young people. Now, having explored the advantages of broader community CPR training and how educators can benefit from this, we have investigated more closely the importance of teaching children CPR.

Various respected healthcare and cardiovascular research organisations, including the RCUK, the BHF and the ERC, as well as the UK Government itself, have identified the benefits of teaching BLS, such as CPR and defibrillation, to children. In this article, we’ll explore these benefits from the perspective of CPR educators and training organisations to help understand how focusing elements of their outreach engagement on schools and youth groups can result in substantial benefits.

Why is it essential to teach CPR to children?

Understanding and answering this question is a crucial part of discussing why current efforts to improve the CPR capabilities of young people are entirely justified. As most experienced CPR instructors will know, around 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) occur each year in the UK.

A study by the University of Warwick, cooperating with the RCUK and the BHF, found that survival rates where CPR was not attempted were as low as 1 in 10. Data from the NHS shows, perhaps unsurprisingly, that correctly carrying out CPR can substantially improve these odds. However, as mentioned in our previous article, many people are not confident in identifying and/or responding to a cardiac arrest.

Of course, this information poses nothing new to experienced CPR educators or training organisations. Still, it illustrates the severity of the situation, which, according to the ERC and NHS, could be partially alleviated by teaching CPR to children.

The ERC: Kids Save Lives

In 2015, the ERC launched their Kids Save Lives project, which posited the notion that schoolteachers should be instructed in CPR and, by extension, engendered with the means to pass this training on to their classes. The ERC’s research outlines the importance of teaching CPR to children, explaining that the initiative would improve survival rates after out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests considerably and sustainably.

the logo for the Kids Save Lives CPR campaign

Image Credit: RCUK

The research goes on to describe in more detail the benefits that teaching CPR to children can have. For example, it discusses the impact that early exposure to CPR can have on facilitating the development of BLS capabilities as psychomotor skills akin to swimming, playing an instrument or riding a bike. The principle is that, by engaging with and learning CPR at a young age, children will retain the skills as lifelong abilities that they don’t forget.

Regarding the practicality of implementation, the ERC suggests that children should continue to engage in the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation of two hours annually. However, their suggestions involve a holistic and sustainable approach to society-wide CPR training. An example of this given by the ERC is of children being asked to show ten other people how to do CPR, record their names and report back to their teacher as a homework task. Here, the ERC identifies another critical benefit of teaching CPR to children. By enabling young people to disseminate the BLS skills, they learned in school to their family members and friends, a larger pool of CPR-trained members of the public can be created.

Both the increased quality of CPR that can be achieved by regular BLS training and the importance of dissemination has also been widely documented in independent research. The study, published in the International Journal of Emergency medicine, found that consistent training improved securing an open airway and sufficient compression recoil and hand positioning. It also reinforced the arguments that educating young people at school is an effective way to spread CPR knowledge in society.

NHS England & The Department of Education: Creating a Nation of Lifesavers

Like the ERC’s push to promote teaching CPR at schools, NHS England launched their plan to Create a Nation of Lifesavers as part of their Resuscitation to Recover National Framework. The 2017 report explained how work was being carried out with the Department of Education to acknowledge the benefit of teaching CPR in schools, as well as discussing how this could be implemented.

The result was that in 2019 Damian Hinds, the then Education Secretary, introduced plans for CPR to form part of the national curriculum in schools across England. The Government’s research found that the chances of surviving a cardiac arrest drop by around 10% for every minute without life-saving treatment.

The project aimed to ensure the next generation had the knowledge and confidence to carry out BLS in an emergency. Under the guidance, all pupils will be taught how to administer CPR, the purpose of defibrillators and essential treatments for common injuries before they leave secondary school, with confidence forming a cornerstone of the training process.

Confidence as a crucial step in CPR training is widely accepted in the academic community, with BMC Emergency Medicine publishing a study forming part of this consensus. The study found that even a short, two-hour session enhanced self-confidence and the capacity not only to identify and respond to a cardiac arrest but also the will to do so.

How can BLS instructors help?

Research shows that regular classroom teachers are best placed to instruct children and young people despite not necessarily having the highest level of CPR knowledge. This is due to the expertise they have in engaging their pupils in education, as well as the vital trust element of the teacher-student relationship.

That said, the teachers themselves must first prove competency in CPR to pass the skills on to their classes. Therefore, to contribute towards the benefits of teaching CPR to children, BLS instructors could focus elements of their training sessions and facilities towards ensuring a more significant number of teachers have access to CPR skills.

A Brayden Advanced Manikin displaying lights

Brayden Advanced manikins (above) feature an innovative light system, giving real-time feedback on CPR quality which facilitates muscle memory in the learner.

Teaching children CPR using Brayden Manikins

Two of the academic studies in this article, those relating to strengthening self-confidence and increasing CPR quality, used Brayden Manikins as their CPR training equipment.

The real-time feedback and wide variety of models enable learners of any age to build their confidence and knowledge of vital CPR skills. View our full range of products here or, for more information, contact us for a detailed conversation.

Innosonian CTA image: child focused

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