Northern Ireland news

BHF NI delighted all post-primary pupils leave school with 'skills and confidence to save a life'

All pupils aged 11 to 14 will be taught CPR and instructed in how to use defibrillators from September

A heart charity last night said a "significant step" had been taken following confirmation that the Northern Ireland school curriculum will be changed to ensure all post-primary pupils leave school with the "skills and confidence to save a life".

It comes after the Department of Education said CPR training and defibrillator awareness will become "mandatory elements" of the school curriculum.

All pupils aged 11 to 14 will be taught CPR and awareness of the use of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) from September.

A department spokeswoman said it was "working closely" with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and NI Ambulance Service on the rollout of the training.

In recent months, SDLP MLA Colin McGrath had been progressing a private member's bill through the Assembly to address the need for young people to be taught life-saving skills.

But with the department formalising the change to the curriculum, Mr McGrath has withdrawn his proposed legislation.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said it "intends to make both CPR training and AED awareness mandatory elements of the curriculum at Key Stage 3 for pupils aged 11 to 14".

"The proposal builds on the work the minister, Michelle McIlveen, has already undertaken to introduce CPR training," she said.

"The changes to the curriculum are part of a wider package to provide resources and training to support the rollout of CPR training in schools and the department is working closely with educational partners and key stakeholders including the British Heart Foundation and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service."

There are around 1,400 cardiac arrests a year that take place outside of hospital in Northern Ireland and less than one in 10 people survive.

Fearghal McKinney from the BHF NI said the charity is "delighted" to see the inclusion of CPR and AED training in the school curriculum.

"Ensuring every child leaves school with the skills to save a life is a long held ambition of British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland and we are proud and delighted to see this happen," he said.

"Every day here people tragically die because bystanders don't have the confidence or knowledge to perform CPR and defibrillation. We know that in other countries where children are taught CPR in school cardiac arrest survival rates are higher.

"We value the contribution of all who have brought the debate to this point and congratulate the education minister Michelle McIlveen for taking this action to ensure every pupil will now leave post-primary school with the skills and confidence to save a life.

"This is a significant step that promises to improve the odds of survival for countless people who have a cardiac arrest in the future."

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