Every public school in England will have a defibrillator by the end of the next school year, the government has announced.
It comes after a decade-long campaign led by Mark King, whose 12-year-old son Oliver suffered sudden cardiac arrest while taking part in a swimming race in Liverpool in 2011.
Mr King, who set up the Oliver King Foundation in memory of his son, worked with former England footballer Jamie Carragher to push for compulsory defibrillators in all schools.
Research shows that access to a defibrillator within three to five minutes of cardiac arrest increases the chance of survival by more than 40%.
The government, which has worked with charities such as the British Heart Foundation to identify the scale of need across all publicly funded English schools, has now pledged to fund at least one defibrillator in every school – with more for larger campuses.
The number of devices is estimated at more than 20,000 and the first deliveries should begin before Christmas.
Mr King said: “It’s been 11 years since we tragically lost our Ollie to sudden cardiac arrest while attending a swimming lesson at school. If there had been a defibrillator there, our son would still be alive today.
“Since 2012, we have fought tenaciously to make defibrillators compulsory in all schools.
“So I’m delighted that after our decade-long struggle, the government has finally listened and schools are now equipped with it.
“It means families across the country will never have to endure the pain we felt when we lost our Ollie.
‘I am grateful to the MPs and Ministers who have supported our campaign and in particular to all those in the Department for Education.’
Young lives will not be “unnecessarily wasted”
Carragher added: “This is fantastic news and a testament to the relentless and unwavering campaign of Mark and Joanne King who have fought so hard for this moment.
“They are an inspiring couple who, supported by a small team, have spent more than 10 years fighting for defibrillators in schools so that young lives are not needlessly lost.
“I’m proud to have played a small part in supporting them and I’m delighted that the government has committed to installing this lifesaving kit in all schools.”
The Department for Education said the rollout would build on existing requirements for schools to teach first aid as part of the curriculum, with secondary school students learning lifesaving methods such as CPR and why defibrillators work.
“Each school will have on-site access”
Education Secretary James Cleverly said: “Access to funding should not prevent every school from having on-site access to a life-saving defibrillator.
“Evidence clearly shows that defibrillators significantly increase the chances of surviving cardiac arrest, and having them available near sports halls and playgrounds is particularly important as children, young people and the community at broadly use daily.
“That’s why I’m so excited to be able to roll out these devices to schools across the country over the coming year, and hopefully it helps prevent more tragic stories like Oliver King’s. “