We would recommend that all schools have an AED (automated external defibrillator) onsite. This is a portable device that checks the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to try and restore a normal rhythm. AEDs are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest. It is always a good idea to have an AED onsite where there are a large amount of people present (such as a school), regardless of whether someone has a known heart condition. This AED should be available anywhere that sports activity is taking place (e.g. swimming pool, playing field and gym). Anyone who has minimal CPR and AED training can use an AED to help save a life. The cost of an AED varies depending on the make and model from £1000 upwards. There are charities that will help finance or raise money for an AED, e.g. SADS UK.
This information is designed to help you to identify any situations where the pupil could be put at risk or made to feel uncomfortable and how to combat these occurrences.
You need to read and understand any specific restrictions that the pupil has; for example being unable to participate in contact sports. Please refer to the ‘Physical Activity Recommendations Form’ which the school should have been given by the pupil or their parent/guardian.
Activity restrictions depend upon the exact nature of the child’s heart condition.
The most common restrictions are:
- activities with a moderate –to-high risk of impact or injury/contact sports
- competitive sports
- activities requiring strenuous exertion e.g. lifting heavy weights
If in doubt, contact the parents/carer to check if any activities should be avoided. Use the sample lesson plan provided on page 8 to help identify factors to be aware of when involving a child with CHD in the lesson.
- Ensure that there are opportunities to rehydrate. Some children with a heart condition are more susceptible to dehydration. It may be useful for them to have a water bottle nearby during activities.
- Ensure that children with CHD are wearing enough layers during outdoor games, as they may be more adversely affected by cold weather. For example, allow them to wear a tracksuit instead of shorts.
- Children with CHD should always be allowed to self-limit their activity. Always allow them to stop and take a rest if they need to.
- Be aware that a competitive nature, or peer pressure, could cause a child with CHD to push themselves too hard. This is particularly likely during team sports.
- Wherever possible, try to ensure that they are included. For example, when playing a team sport it may be useful to make regular substitutions to allow them sufficient time to rest and recover. If you need to adapt activities to allow a child to participate, try to do so without drawing attention to their heart condition.
- Try to include a steady warm-up and cool-down in the activity.
- Don’t assume that a child has limitations. Many children with CHD can safely participate without restrictions
- Don’t forget about them! Children with CHD usually don’t like to draw attention to their heart condition and find it awkward to have to remind teachers about their condition.
If the class is playing rugby or a different contact sport, it is very important to involve the child with CHD in some way. This could be by making them a touch judge or referee. The social role of sport should always be considered important, alongside the physical benefits.
If the child has missed a lot of school due to illness and hospital stays, you may choose to let them miss the occassional contact sport lesson to catch up with some work instead of refereeing. Never just tell them to sit on the bench for the duration of the lesson - it has to be a valuable use of their time. Singling them out to sit on the bench instead of giving them an important role will contribute to social isolation and resentment towards physical activity.