Why we should all put children’s safety first

Fay Gibbin offers her views on the importance of paediatric first aid training in both nursery settings and in the home. 

There is clear gap between the need for knowledge and the lack of first aid training for parents of under-5s. Credit: Dave Thompson/PA 
As children grow and develop, so does their natural curiosity for the world around them. They will master new skills, explore new places and partake in new activities every day, all of which are vital for developing a sound understanding of their environment.
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However, as all parents and carers can tell you, part of this develop process is learning how to manage risk, which invariably will result in a few bumps and bruises and the occasional scraped knee. 
But what about those times we fear most: when an injury is potentially life-threatening or a child in your care starts to show signs of a serious illness?
A recent study conducted by a number of credible sources revealed that, although 65 per cent of parents say the thought of their child needing immediate first aid intervention makes them feel worried, 70 per cent of mums and dads in the UK lack first aid skills that would allow them to help their child in a medical emergency.
This highlights a clear gap between the need for knowledge and the lack of first aid training for parents of under-5s.
For nursery settings and pre-schools, to meet the current legislation requirements, only one paediatric first aid trained member of staff is needed on-site, no matter how many children are in their care at the time.
Although this may be considered sufficient by some in the average day-to-day running of a setting, many nurseries do already strive for a higher number than this to ensure robust safety measures are in place at all times.
It wasn’t until the tragic death of nine-month-old Millie Thompson in 2012, and the following review by the Department for Education, that this legislation was scrutinised.
Due to the relentless campaigning by her parents, Dan and Jane, new regulations, due to come into effect from September 2016, will mean that all new recruits who hold a Level 2 or Level 3 qualification in Childcare must present an Emergency Paediatric First Aid or a full Paediatric First Aid certificate if they are to count towards the staff/qualification ratios under the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). 
Although a large proportion of the childcare sector would argue these changes are long overdue, we examine the implications of these revisions, not only on nurseries to meet the required standards and the impact it may have on other areas of the business, but on training providers to effectively cater for this increased demand. We also look at what can be done to support parents in their abilities to deliver effective emergency first aid to an infant or young child.
The financial implications 
A concern for some childcare providers may be the impact the legislation changes will have on finances, particularly for smaller independent nurseries where funding may be more limited. However, this should prove to be of little concern for most. 
As it stands, the new Government proposals only require newly qualified members of staff, with a level 2 or level 3 qualification, to be trained in Paediatric First Aid, which is likely to be included in their apprenticeship programme, meaning little increase in overheads at the point of hiring.
For existing members of staff, refresher courses are available that will upskill already qualified practitioners who hold a current first aid certificate. This can be completed in just a couple of days for under £100.
This small investment will not only mean more first aid trained staff working in the setting, but it will also motivate and enhance the knowledge of existing staff teams, allowing parents to feel more confident in the nursery’s dedication to providing the best possible care for their child.
The impact on a strained workforce  
Recruitment is one of the biggest issues facing the childcare sector at present, and there are some concerns regarding the impact that these changes will have on both the number of new starters coming into the industry if they are asked to demonstrate an additional, compulsory skillset, and existing practitioners becoming more desirable above newly qualified staff when recruiting.
Speaking to our own apprentices, we have found that, if they were to join the industry today, it is unlikely they would have been deterred from pursuing a career in childcare by this new legislation. Casey White, an apprentice from Busy Bees nursery in Shrewsbury, offered her thoughts on the changes, stating that it could only bring improvements to the childcare industry. 
Although she was initially a little unsure about taking the paediatric first aid qualification, she soon started to care for a child in her assigned room with a serious allergy.
As part of her training, White learnt how to safely administer an auto adrenaline injector pen in the event of an allergic reaction, giving her the confidence and knowledge to effectively control the situation should it ever arise. She has since shared this knowledge with other members of the team, ensuring that all of the nursery staff are kept up to date with best practice.
In terms of the financial implications of hiring a new recruit, according to the DfE’s Impact Assessment, the initial cost of the paediatric first aid training will be absorbed by early years childcare training providers rather than childcare settings or individual trainees, with only the cost for ‘refresher’ training every three years expected to fall upon the employer.
This means that for the next three years at least, there will be no direct impact financially on employers, and approximately 45,000 new practitioners (in line with the current trend) will be qualified to deal with an emergency first aid situation. 
The role of training providers 
As an early years training provider, we already have the capability to offer a full two-day (12 hour) Paediatric First Aid certification as part of both intermediate and advanced apprenticeship programmes. As a result, we can ensure that those who go on to complete their apprenticeship with us are already qualified in paediatric first aid.
However, for those without that capacity, there may be financial implications ahead as they will almost certainly need to adapt their apprenticeship programmes to meet this new legislation and remain appealing as an early years apprenticeship provider. 
Recognised, quality training providers will ensure the course covers important topics such as choking, CPR, what to do in the event of injuries such as scolds, burns, cuts or broken bones and how to identify potential signs and symptoms of childhood health conditions, from whooping cough to meningitis.
The training also covers how to emotionally deal with an emergency situation, learning how to stay calm in a stressful environment and reassure those around them. At the end of the accredited course, each participant will receive a certificate approved by an awarding organisation.
A welcome change for parents
The change in legislation has been widely welcomed by parents, as additional qualified staff can only improve the quality of care offered by childcare practitioners. But what happens when an emergency occurs outside of the nursery setting?
Research suggests that 59 per cent of parents wouldn’t feel confident enough to try and save a life and almost a quarter would do nothing in the event of an emergency, and would either wait for an ambulance to arrive or hope that a passer-by knows first aid. In some cases, this could prove to be a fatal judgement. The first few minutes of an incident is often the most critical period, and is the point when a child’s life could be saved.
This lack of knowledge presents a very real risk for parents in the home. Ingrid Baker, a mum of two from Birmingham, has been given a scare not once but twice whilst raising her children.
Her eldest daughter Maria, now 10-years-old, began choking when she was just 18-months-old after her windpipe became blocked on a potato wedge and just last year, her second child, Georgia, who is now two-years-old, sustained a serious burn injury when she managed to pull a fresh, boiling hot cup of tea off a high top table over her upper body.
Baker believes, as do the medical professionals involved, that her knowledge of paediatric first aid helped to save her daughters from these serious and life-threatening injuries and believes that more parents should be given asses to this vital training.
Putting child safety first
Ultimately, regardless of other factors, the safety of children is the main focus of all involved and has been the main influence for changes to the legislation.  
Of course, we hope that no one will ever find themselves in a situation where they need to administer first aid, but figures from St John’s Ambulance put the importance of first aid provision into context; 140,000 lives are lost each year that could have been saved by basic first aid training. 
We are committed to maintaining quality standards of childcare in the UK, and we are very aware that care for under-5s is not restricted to nurseries and pre-schools.
By launching our new campaign, Child Safety First, we aim to equip thousands of additional adults, be it parents, grandparents, carers or childcare practitioners, with the knowledge, skills and confidence to deliver the right treatment quickly and efficiently should the situation ever arise, potentially saving several lives each year.
We wholeheartedly welcome the new government legislation and believe that the early years sector as a whole should work together to meet and exceed these requirements so we can collectively continue to care for children in the safest possible environment, be it in the home or in the nursery setting.
About the author 
Fay Gibbin, Training Manager at Busy Bees Early Years Training Academy, part of the Busy Bees nursery group​.


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