All teachers have a responsibility to keep their students safe, which in some instances may mean that they are required to give first aid. While all schools will have designated first aiders who have qualifications, it’s still beneficial for all teachers to understand at least the basics.
First aid can often mean the difference between a minor injury or illness becoming a more serious one, or a serious one becoming life-threatening. In this article, we’re going to go through the main things you need to know if you’re working with children in a teaching role.
The first thing to note is that being a qualified first aider means undertaking specific, physical training. Without this, you aren’t a designated first aider and it is not your direct responsibility to apply first aid techniques.
It’s a legal requirement for schools to have a minimum of one first aider on the premises at all times. This means that teachers aren’t legally required to be qualified first aiders, but it is strongly recommended that they are given some kind of first aid training.
The majority of first aid incidents that teachers will encounter will be very minor, but there are sometimes cases where a student or another member of staff becomes seriously injured or unwell and needs urgent medical attention. Having basic school first aid training is important, as it will equip teachers with the skills to act quickly in these situations and keep the people around them safe.
Many educational establishments provide first aid training for school staff once a year as part of mandatory training, which covers the basic school first aid procedures that we’re going to explain below. Teachers may also choose to take part in additional first aid training courses to improve their knowledge and feel confident that they know how to react in an emergency at work.
Accidents in school are often only things like simple cuts, bruises and grazes. These kinds of incidents can be quickly dealt with and only need minor treatment using items that can be found in a first aid kit.
First aid kits should be readily available on school grounds and can be used to treat a wide range of minor injuries. At the very least, a first aid kit in a school should contain:
There should be a first aid kit within easy reach of every part of the school, and as a teacher, it’s a good idea to learn the locations of each of these in case you need to find one in a hurry.
All good school first aid kits should come with an instructional guide that explains how to use the various components. But if you’re ever in doubt, always seek a qualified first aider or the school nurse if one is present.
Due to the requirements of The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1996, every school is required to have a designated first aid room. This room may be used for other things at various points, but there needs to be a space that is set up for giving first aid to students and storing school first aid supplies.
As a teacher, you need to know the location of the school first aid room so that you can send or take students there if they require first aid. It will be the responsibility of the school first aider to administer treatment in this room, but you may need to provide details of the incident in the record book or find first aid equipment in here.
The primary survey is perhaps the most effective procedure that teachers can learn if they are not designated first aiders. This is often part of formal first aid training and can be started in any first aid situation, either in anticipation of the arrival of a qualified first aider, or the emergency services.
It’s designed to help people understand how best to deal with a potential emergency situation. DRS ABC is the best way of remembering it, which stands for Danger, Response, Send for help, Airway, Breathing and Circulation. Let’s take a quick look at the process here:
Danger: This means checking the situation for any further dangers. For example, has the student cut themselves on glass that’s still present? Make sure the situation is safe for you to engage with before continuing.
Response: Check to see if the person is responsive or unconscious by speaking to them. If they are not, then pinch their earlobe or gently shake their shoulders to see if there’s a response. Whether there’s a response or not, move on to the next point; but those who are unresponsive are in a more serious condition.
Send for help: Once you have approached the injured or unwell student and assessed whether they are responsive or not, the next stage is to send for help. If you are on your own then you should shout to get the attention of someone nearby, or you should send a nearby student or staff member to fetch the school’s first aider.
Airway: Check to see if the airway is clear. If the student is responsive then you can directly check or treat them for choking. If they are unresponsive, then tilt the head and lift the chin to open the airway.
Breathing: Next, you’ll need to check breathing by looking, listening and feeling. If they’re breathing normally, move onto circulation. If they’re not breathing normally, then call 999 immediately, particularly if they are also unresponsive.
Circulation: You should now check to see if there is any severe bleeding. If there is, then control the flow with any available dressings or clothing.
CPR should be administered at this point if the injured student isn’t breathing, but you are only advised to do this if you have been trained in the correct method. Only begin giving CPR after an ambulance has been called and paramedics are on their way.
In practice, the primary survey is rapid, and in most scenarios in the school environment, you’ll find that most steps can be bypassed, as serious events are unlikely.
You should always seek further medical assistance if you are in any doubt about a student’s health. In some cases, the primary survey is just used to keep an injured person from deteriorating until proper medical help arrives.
Many children suffer from allergies, so as a teacher you’re likely to encounter students that may be prone to allergic reactions if they are exposed to a particular allergen. First aid at school training may cover the signs and symptoms of allergic reactions, which include:
If a student starts exhibiting these symptoms, they may be having an allergic reaction. Students with a known allergy may have an adrenaline auto-injector at school to use in the event of an allergic reaction, which will usually be kept in a safe place like the school office.
In the event of a severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis and/or an incident where an adrenaline auto-injector is used, the emergency services should be called as the student will need proper medical attention.
Another common ailment in children, particularly those with allergies, is asthma. First aid courses for teachers often cover what to do if a child is having an asthma attack, which can be identified by the following symptoms:
Children with asthma often have inhalers that can help to manage the condition and their symptoms. If you know that a child has asthma and they seem to be having an asthma attack, official NHS guidance suggests they should take a puff of their inhaler every 30 - 60 seconds up to ten times to try and manage the symptoms. If this does not help, an ambulance should be called.
Teachers that work with SEN children in particular are likely to encounter students with epilepsy, which means that they may also experience their students having seizures. This is an important element of first aid in schools, as whilst some adults with epilepsy can anticipate when a seizure might be about to happen, it’s much harder for children to do or communicate this.
It should also be noted that seizures can be experienced by children that don’t have epilepsy, so understanding what a seizure looks like and how to respond is important no matter who your students are and what conditions they might have.
There are several different types of seizures, ranging from absences where a student will appear to remain conscious to tonic-clonic seizures that involve the convulsions and unconsciousness that many people associate with the condition. If a child has never had a seizure before, you should call 999 and ask for an ambulance immediately.
If a child is known to have seizures, you should monitor them and keep them from further harm whilst they’re having a seizure. If the seizure lasts a long time, lasts longer than usual for the child, or if they have multiple seizures in a row, an ambulance needs to be called as well.
Many schools now have a defibrillator installed somewhere on the premises or nearby. Cardiac arrest can affect anyone, whether that’s a child, a parent or another member of staff, and as a teacher, you should be familiar with where the nearest defibrillator is kept so that you can help to access it in an emergency.
Using a defibrillator is covered in plenty of teacher first aid training courses, so school first aiders will know how to use one. You can also take specific defibrillator first aid courses that equip you with the knowledge of how to use one safely, which is a good idea if you have a defibrillator on school grounds.
Defibrillators can be used on anyone over the age of eight. If you’re using a defibrillator then there will be visual and audio guidance on what to do, and if you’re on the phone with emergency services they can also advise you on how to safely use one.
Yes, teachers can do first aid if they know what they’re doing and feel comfortable in the situation. A teacher isn't a qualified first aider unless they have taken an official first aid course, but they can still administer basic first aid and may have undergone certain kinds of training to help them with this.
There is no obligation to administer first at school if you are not a teacher, and in more serious cases it is often better to find the school's first aider and let them deal with the situation.
A school first aid kit should contain all the basic equipment required for minor first aid scenarios, including sterile dressings, bandages, cleansing wipes, gauze pads, adhesive tape, disposable gloves, a face mask for resuscitation breaths and scissors. A first aid kit for school also needs to have an instruction booklet advising on how to use each of the items inside it.
The three P’s in first aid stand for: Preserve Life, Prevent Deterioration and Promote Recovery. They indicate the main aim of first aid, which is to help prevent injured people from becoming more unwell and keep them in a stable condition until medical help arrives.
The guidelines for school first aid procedures cover a range of different scenarios, providing first aid training for teachers that helps them prepare for the most likely incidents they might encounter at work. If you’re not a qualified first aider then there’s never an obligation to administer first aid to a student, but having a basic knowledge of the actions you should take for different injuries and conditions can be very useful.
Should you wish to undertake further training, then you may find our ‘Primary Survey’ online first aid course useful. This teaches how to deal with an emergency situation, and explains certain medical procedures, such as how to place someone into the recovery position. It’s a good option for teachers not seeking full first aider status, but who would like to feel prepared for an emergency.