Aims: Resuscitation skills such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are taught as an optional component of the New Zealand school curriculum. This study was conducted to determine the frequency of, and factors influencing, CPR teaching in New Zealand primary and secondary schools.
Methods: At the end of the 2001 school year, we surveyed by questionnaire every school in New Zealand asking which schools taught CPR skills during 2001, what other resuscitation skills were taught, and what the barriers to greater teaching of resuscitation were.
Results: Seven hundred and fifty four of 2205 (34.9%) primary schools and 173 of 456 (38.6%) secondary schools returned the survey. Of primary schools, 37.5% taught resuscitation skills during 2001, as did 81% of secondary schools. In secondary schools, resuscitation was most commonly taught during year 12 (pupil age 16-17 years), but then only as an elective subject to 10-30% of students. For both primary and secondary schools there was a positive correlation between school size (number of pupils) and the teaching of resuscitation (p = 0.0001). The most significant barriers to resuscitation teaching were identified as funding, an overfull curriculum and, in primary schools, the question of the suitability of teaching resuscitation to young children.
Conclusions: This survey indicates that the majority of primary schools are not teaching CPR skills, or other life-saving first aid, and that the majority of secondary schools are treating these subjects as optional, taught only to a small proportion of students. If New Zealand is to achieve widespread community CPR knowledge, it is suggested that greater funding needs to be available to schools for resuscitation/first-aid training and the subject must become a compulsory, rather than optional, component of the school curriculum.