AS a national campaign to ensure emergency life support is taught in secondary schools reached Parliament, it emerged that pupils as young as five are already learning these vital skills in the North-East.
Last week the principle that emergency life support skills, including life-saving chest compressions, should be taught to school children was supported by MPs.
This followed a joint campaign by the British Heart Foundation and Resuscitation Council (UK) to put emergency life support skills on the curriculum.
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It followed the delivery of a petition signed by more than 124,000 people to 10 Downing Street by the footballer and cardiac arrest survivor, Fabrice Muamba.
But The Northern Echo can report that a number of North-East schools are already teaching the British Heart Foundations Heart Start programme to youngsters across the region.
At Hurworth Junior School, near Darlington, pupils as young as five are learning what to do in an emergency, thanks to the enthusiasm of teaching assitant, Lisa Rusby.
Mrs Rusby, who used to be a healthcare assistant at North Tees Hospital, said: "We have been teaching it from year one to year six for the last four years. In year one the pupils are taught how to get help and ring for an ambulance, in year two they learn about the recovery position and so on."
In year six 10 and 11 year olds are taught how to perform chest compressions on someone who has stopped breathing, using 15 Little Annie mannequins on loan from the BHF.
Mrs Rusby is a supporter of the BHFs campaign and also backs The Northern Echos A Chance To Life drive to encourage the installation of more defibrillator heart-start machines in public places, including gyms and sports clubs.
"I think defibrillators should definitely be available in public places. A defibrillator takes you through the whole process step by step. Anybody can operate them," she said.
It is understood that two other schools in County Durham offer emergency life support to pupils. Nearly 20 schools on Teesside and East Cleveland teach ELS along with around five schools in North Yorkshire.
The Northern Echo's campaign is backed by the BHF and by Fabrice Muamba, who has linked up with the Arrhythmia Alliance charity to encourage more defibrillators to be available in public places.