Who was your favourite teacher? The one who brought the Victorians to life, or the one who made chemistry go off with a bang? Chances are they knew how to make their lessons exciting, relevant and inspiring.

Of course, even top teachers need subjects that will get their pupils fired up – and few fit the bill like first aid and humanitarian education. The Red Cross Pupil, Citizen, Life-saver campaign is urging the government to put these topics at the heart of England’s new national curriculum – we need you to sign our e-campaign and give us your support.

Schoolchildren next to a handmade sign saying refugee camp

You haven’t got long to make your voice heard. The government announced draft plans for the new curriculum on February 7, but these do not include any mention of first aid education. The Red Cross recommends that schools make life-saving skills and resilience building part of core subjects like science and PE, but the draft plans do not currently allow for this approach.

First aid lessons give young people life-saving skills and the confidence to use them. Humanitarian education – about topics such as child soldiers, HIV and natural disasters – helps students understand global issues, and prepares them to cope and support others in a crisis.

 Two schoolgirls and an adult kneel next to a child lying on her back

But why are these subjects such a hit the classroom?


From hands-on role-plays and demonstrations to challenging group discussions, there are lots of memorable ways to teach first aid and humanitarian education.

A primary teacher who shared first aid skills with her class told the Red Cross: “The children loved the practical activities. We used our internal phones to stage a ‘real’ emergency call, with a teaching assistant in the staff room acting as the emergency operator. This captured the children’s imagination – they took it all very seriously.”


Emergencies can happen anywhere, but only seven per cent of people in the UK can correctly recall first aid advice and feel confident and willing to give first aid. Simple skills learned in just a few minutes – like what do if someone becomes unconscious – can save lives.

By looking at the challenges faced by others, humanitarian education makes pupils more resilient in the face of crisis. Both subjects equip them with skills for the real world.


Tackling these issues gives students the skills and confidence to look after themselves and support others – whether those people live round the corner or on the other side of the world.

One teenager who experienced humanitarian education with the help of the Red Cross, said: “The action project has changed the way we act and think. It has encouraged us to help other young people in countries where conflict and child soldiers exist.”

Three children and an adult hold up a sign

Time to take action

First aid and humanitarian education make our communities stronger – so it’s in all our interests to put them on the school timetable.

We need everyone to sign our e-campaign and put pressure on the government to take this important step. There’s no time to lose – the government’s review of the curriculum is set to end this year, with changes due to take place by September 2014.

If you’re a teacher and want lesson ideas for these subjects, check out our free teaching resources. You could even invite an MP to your school to see a lesson in action.