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First Aid For Schools, A Good Practice Guide

First Aid in school needs willing adults - first and foremost.

First Aid in school needs willing adults - first and foremost.

First Aid Is Important In Schools

The title sounds like it is stating the obvious but how much do you know about first aid in your child's school?

  • If your child needed first aid in school, would they know what to do?

  • If a friend of your child had a severe allergic reaction in school, could they help? Would they know who to ask for help? Is there a list of First Aid givers in school?

  • Where should they go? Who should they ask? Does the friend have medication with them?

Have I made you think? Have I at least piqued your interest in this topic?

Schools should never underestimate their responsibility to provide First Aid to children - although it is not a legal requirement, it is certainly a central part of children's 'care'


First Aid Good Practice - Where To Start?

For the purpose of this article, it is almost impossible to take a generic approach. I work in a large UK primary school so I am basing my advice on my own experiences and findings.

In the UK, primary schools have children from age 3 to 11; quite an age range and the first aid requirements can differ across that age range.

In my own experience, children at the lower age range suffer more injury from falling down - grazes and scrapes and bumping into one another in the playground. There are also more bites at this age (though this usually gets better).

Children in the upper age range also bump into one another and other things a lot so bumps to elbows and heads are very common. They also fall down playing games like football, rugby or tig. They are not very careful with things like balls, bats and racquets so you get more nose bleeds and black eyes. Oh and of course, they fight more; whether we like it or not, some of them are more aggressive and competitive at this age than little 4 year olds.

Do I make them sound accident-prone? Well, children ARE accident prone.

Most of their injuries occur during what is usually termed 'undirected play' - break times; time when they can relax with their friends and have fun.

At morning break times, there are teachers on duty in the playgrounds and at lunch times, there are Supervisory Assistants ('dinner ladies') but the ratio of adults to children is about 1:30 so invariably, accidents are going to occur.

There are more acccidents when the sun is shining - because more children will be outside in the warmth, laughing, skipping, running, playing ball and having fun - it is natural that you will get more accidents if there are more children outside.

The important thing to do is BE PREPARED.

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What First Aid Support Does Your School Need?

Staff in schools have no statutory responsibility for providing First Aid to children but it would be a very negligent school indeed which didn't provide some form of first aid treatment.

One thing a school is supposed to ensure they have though, is a person who is 'designated' to oversee first aid duties- this person may not be someone who actually delivers first aid, though that would be preferable but they do need to co-ordinate first aid in their school.

  • They need to provide first aid supplies and hopefully delegate staff to do first aid duties.
  • They need to make sure there are systems in place for delivery and reporting first aid incidences.
  • They need to know what to do if a child has a severe injury - do they need to go to hospital? Does an ambulance need to be called?

First Aiders - Staff With Responsibility for First Aid

Staff in schools usually fall into two broad categories - teaching staff and non-teaching or 'support' staff.

The support staff cover anybody who works in a school who does not teach - your caretaker or site manager, your office manager, secretary, cleaners, classroom assistants, nursery nurses and lunchtime supervisory assistants.

Ideally, at least two or three teachers might complete a first aiders training courses but because of recent bureaucracy in the British education sector and the institution of the National Agreement in 2003, less teachers seem inclined to want to take responsibility for first aid - it has, in recent years, fallen to support staff to fill the gap.

My school has about 650 children and has 10 first aiders - all of whom are support staff.

Thankfully 4 of those staff are supervisory assistants (dinner ladies) which gives good coverage over the lunchtime when most accidents in schools seem to happen during 'undirected' play.

Schools also need to take responsibility for children on school educational visits - school 'trips' - usually, for an indoor visit, you should ring ahead and ensure that a first-aider is on site. This will mean you don't need to take a first-aider with you, just a first-aid kit for on the bus on the way there and back.

However, for an outdoor visit, the school MUST ensure a first-aider goes on the educational visit.

As you can imagine, in a big school, where classroom assistants are supporting particular year groups, this is often very difficult - you are robbing Peter to pay Paul, stealing a classroom assistant from a teacher to ensure you have met your legal requirements.

The current coalition government are currently changing the law in regard to educational visits - this is in keeping with their more 'hands off' arrangements to education.

Schools have also started giving children some basic first aid advice - especially in secondary schools.

Typical First Aid box for use on school trips.

Typical First Aid box for use on school trips.

Essential First Aid Equipment

Luckily, the designated first-aider is well served these days by the internet where you can get lots of really useful advice about what first aid supplies your school will need.

Even thinking on your feet, you know that you will need band-aids, bandages, cold compresses, finger stools, dressings, scissors, cleansing wipes, plastic gloves,first aid boxes.

I could go on of course but if you click on the blue link above this will give you all the info you will need up to a point.

One thing that you MUST do though, before you buy anything, is gather your stats together first.

This is vital to getting first aid in school right, if you do not take this step first, you will not get it right.

  • How many children do you have in school?
  • Have you carried out a survey of your outdoor sites?
  • Have you completed risk assessments for those sites?
  • Have you looked at indoor risks in corridors, toilets, dining centre, doorways, lobbies and classrooms?
  • Have you completed risk assessments for those sites?
  • Do your children complete a Pupil/Learner Information Form?
  • Is 'Medical Conditions' included on this form?
  • Has the Designated First Aider looked at every one of the forms and created a report of all children with a medical condition?
  • Do any children have severe allergies? Where is their Epipen kept? Where is a spare kept? Where are inhalers kept for children with asthma?
  • Where is this list kept?
  • Who has been made aware of it?
  • Is it changed every year to reflect that the child has moved into a new class with a new teacher?

I bet you are thinking that this seems excessive but these are children remember and you are 'in loco parentis' and the school has 'a duty of care' to look after the children whilst under the school's roof.

Ofsted may want to see your accident books. They may ask to see your first aider's incident books and they may ask to see your first aid book. Ofsted will concentrate 99.9% on childrens' teaching and learning but the .1% will be about childrens' safeguarding and care - and first aid is central to that care.

An ideal first aid room looks like this - most schools would never have enough space for a room like this one.

An ideal first aid room looks like this - most schools would never have enough space for a room like this one.

First Aid Rooms Or Spaces

I work in a brand spanking new building - it has a room which is used for storage at one and has a similar storage room further along the corridor - we have designated both of these rooms as first aid stations.

There are ample supplies of everything in both rooms and a number of ready to use first aid kits for use on school trips. Nobody is mooching around looking for first aid supplies because everybody was informed at a staff meeting where to find it.

And we have bold signage throughout the school to let staff and visitors know where first aid can be found.

First Aiders wear a First Aid badge.

A list of all first aiders is hung up in every corridor in school.

This may all sound like overkill but you will need to ensure your first aid is a systematic process of lists, reports, reportage, feedback, parental support and staff support.

Not all children are as able as Thorward - they need a First Aider

Some statistics to ponder

In the last 30 years, the rate of cases of childhood diabetes in the UK has increased threefold - they all go to school.

In Europe and the USA, Type 2 diabetes has become more common in children, previously it was unheard of, it is associated with adults. This is thought to be down to the rise in childhood obesity - they all go to school.

In the USA, about 8% of children have at least one food allergy. Of those with an allergy at least 33% of these are severe allergies - they all go to school.

If a child is too young to self medicate - their parent might come into school to medicate them if needed but if the parent is unable to, the first aider will need to be trained to do this - they all go to school.

First Aiders are worth their weight in gold - and do they get paid for the responsibility?

Yes, they receive the princely sum of £100 per year! £8.30 a month less tax.


Jools Hogg (author) from North-East UK on August 16, 2012:

Michelle, thanks for your comment - a teacher doing a first aid course would be a rare event in my old school, they don't want the hassle - lots of support staff did the training though (just as well!).

Michelle Liew from Singapore on August 16, 2012:

I underwent a first aid course as teacher and know some basic first aid. It's useful training for anyone, Jools. Thanks for the share....and highlighting the necessity of first aid in schools. Votes up and away!

Jools Hogg (author) from North-East UK on July 19, 2012:

jpcmc - thanks for your comment. It is good that the Red Cross are also involved. I think they have an amazing reputation.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on July 03, 2012:

The school where my wife works recently had a first aid training for the staff and teachers. They are also considering the Red Cross Youth program fromn the local chapter.

First aid is an important skill to have. Even children can do it when given proper instructions. Voted Up.

Jools Hogg (author) from North-East UK on May 08, 2012:

Lyn, they really are worth their weight in gold. One of our First Aiders even came to the rescue with one of our children on her day off. She was in the supermarket when the child started to choke on a lollipop. She had to do Heimlich Manoeuvre.

Lyn.Stewart from Auckland, New Zealand on May 07, 2012:

First aiders don't get paid much do they. Especially considering the responsibility they have. voted up and interesting

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