Williamson looking at law change to put defibrillators in ‘all schools’

The government is looking at changing the law to ensure “all schools” have defibrillators, Gavin Williamson has said, following a meeting with campaigners.

The education secretary told the House of Commons today it was “incredibly” moving to meet with Mark King, whose 12-year-old son Oliver died during a school swimming lesson in 2011.

He said the meeting had focused “the need for us to do as much as possible in order to encourage schools to have defibrillators”.

Williamson added: “That’s why we’ll be looking at changing the regulations that are underpinned by secondary legislation to ensure that all schools do have defibrillators in future and hopefully prevent such tragedy visiting more families.”

The government publishes guidance on how schools can buy, install and maintain an automated external defibrillator, but its use by settings remains optional.

Ministers have come under increasing pressure, including from the Oliver King Foundation, to ensure all schools have a defibrillator.

On Friday, MPs will consider a draft law put forward by DUP MP Jim Shannon which would  require the “installation of automated external defibrillators in public buildings, sporting facilities, schools, higher education and other education and skills facilities”.

The draft law is a private members bill, which rarely progress beyond their early stages. However, Williamson indicated today that the government would instead pursue changes to secondary legislation to improve access.

King told the BBC last month that defibrillators “should be as common in public buildings as fire extinguishers”.

“Had the swimming pool had one my son would still be here.”

He added that his charity had distributed defibrillators to more than 5,500 schools and gyms, and had saved “56 lives so far”.

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