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CPR training will be part of the Northern Ireland school curriculum

All students aged 11 to 14 in post-primary schools must learn CPR and learn to use defibrillators after the Ministry of Education confirmed a change in the school curriculum.

The ministry said arrangements for the change will be made “as soon as possible” with schools expected to start training already in September.

SDLP MP Colin McGrath had pushed a private member’s bill through the Assembly to address the need to train all young people in lifesaving skills.

Mr McGrath has now withdrawn his bill, with the department stepping in to formalize the change of scheme.

Dr Suzanne Kingon, Head of Curriculum and Assessment at the Department, told the Education Committee: “This amendment builds on work already undertaken by the Minister. In September, the department wrote to all post-primary schools stating their intention to introduce CPR training at Key Stage 3 from September 2022.

“The current proposal gives a legislative basis to this expectation.

“Legislation is only part of the answer,” Dr Kingon continued.

“The ministry will direct the CAMC and school authority to develop and deliver a range of tailored resources and training to support the universal rollout of CPR training.

The ministry said it would work with the British Heart Foundation and the NI Ambulance Service to provide the necessary resources.

Some £70,000 has been allocated to fund the initial resource development phase.

“It will save lives,” Mr McGrath said.

“Each year in the North, approximately 1,400 people suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, and surprisingly less than one in ten survive.

“If we equip every young person with these skills, we would dramatically increase the number of people in our society who could respond appropriately if present during a cardiac arrest.

“Being there when someone is suffering from a medical emergency is scary – a lot of people freeze up and don’t know what to do and this bill would give people the confidence to take action. We have seen in a number of high profile incidents recently how important early intervention is when someone experiences cardiac arrest.

“Every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces a person’s chance of survival by up to 10% and survival rates are higher where more people are trained to perform CPR and are ready to respond.

“For someone suffering from cardiac arrest, this could mean the difference between life and death.”

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