Should PSHE teach first aid and cancer detection?

A recent article in the Times Educational Supplement highlighted the perspectives of MPs about what exactly should be taught in PSHE education.

In a cross-party debate on whether PSHE should be made statutory in all schools, MP Justin Tomlinson said that a one-hour lesson in first aid would “create a generation of lifesavers” and “could save 5,000 lives a year”.

It’s hard to disagree with that statement – first aid is already included in the PSHE programme of study for secondary schools. The problem is, because PSHE isn’t mandatory, provision is patchy. Even then, whilst 97% of secondary pupils agree that first aid should be taught, 60% of all children currently receive no first aid training at all.

My perspective is that teaching first aid is a no-brainer, but why shouldn’t that begin in primary schools? Secondary school is too late. Children are often out on their own in the community without adult supervision before they reach secondary-school age, especially at 9 and 10. They need to know what to do if, for example, a friend falls whilst climbing a tree and is injured.

We need to equip children with the knowledge to save lives, even if this is just through small-scale workshops. The ‘what to do, when and how’, and the confidence to do the right thing, can be a matter of life and death. Repetition is a must for the message to be retained, which is why first aid should be taught from primary school. Again, this is currently patchy, and is something that 1decision is currently exploring.

There is a similar issue around being taught when to call 999, the difference between 999 and 111, and the importance of not making hoax calls. We paired up with Hertfordshire Fire Service to create a new module for primary pupils looking at hoax calling, texting whilst driving (with a view to encourage children to nag their parents or carers about the dangers), petty arson and safety in the home. With hoax calls, my experience is children simply don’t understand the impact of clogging up emergency lines – we need to give them the knowledge as early as possible, not wait until they are at secondary school.

Going back to the MPs debate, another MP Andrew Selous said he would like to see all pupils taught to detect cancer early. Millions of pounds is being spent on treating and detecting cancer each year, so I can understand the political motivation, but the fact is that 1 in 3 people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Children should ideally be educated on the physical signs of cancer early on.

Only last week it was revealed that cervical smear uptake in England is at a 20-year low across all age groups, with 25-49 year olds least likely to attend their appointments. Following the tragic death of young reality TV star Jade Goody from cervical cancer, the number of women attending routine screening appointments shot up. Jade’s case should have been turned into resources for schools and young people to create a real legacy. The media coverage of Jade’s life created an impact, and I believe that more information fed into the curriculum could have the same impact, ultimately saving lives.

Schools must respond to these ‘real life’ issues. The recent revelation about how the prescription drug Xanax is being sold illegally to children on social media sites is another one. These things come from nowhere and we can’t expect children to make good choices if they don’t have the knowledge and confidence to respond.

PSHE is the only vehicle for this type of learning in schools – that’s why it should be statutory.

Hayley Sherwood, creator of 1decision, part of Headway learning resources

26 March 2018

Share to LinkedIn