FEW would argue first aid is a skill we shouldn’t all have.

The ability to save someone’s life is invaluable.

Yet rates of qualified first aiders in Britain are some of the lowest in Europe, with the country lagging behind our neighbours.

Now a Colchester business is doing something to change it.

Franklins Fire and Safety, in Elmstead Market, is launching a scheme to get all children across Essex knowing basic, life-saving skills.

It is something the company, which does health and safety training for adults, has been wanting to do for a number of years, but it wasn’t sure how to adapt its teaching methods to children.

Ben Neill, fire safety training and development manager at Franklins, said: “We really wanted to do it, but didn’t know how to make it fun and engaging.

“I just so happened to see a link on the bottom of an email about first aid and children.

“It took me to a site in Manchester where a first aid scheme for children has been developed.

“I just knew it was what we were looking for.”

The company bought the product and has since been in talks with youth groups about running courses for children aged four to 11. Next week, it will be approaching 175 schools in a 15-mile radius of Colchester to start classes.

And they already have Children’s University on board, which is looking at making the course part of their syllabus.

The classes will be very different to adult ones. But their aim is the same - to save lives. Mr Neill said: “Children are like sponges. They take so much on board.”

During the classes children will be taught about everything, from how to call for help if they find someone unconscious, to what to expect when they dial 999.

Treating burns, bumps and bruises and cuts will also be covered. The course will also see the youngsters learn how to carry out chest compressions.

Mr Neill said: “Each class would be tailored to the age of the children.

“The older they are, the more knowledge they will get.”

Mr Neill said children as young as four would still benefit from knowing how to do chest compressions.

He said: “Clearly they couldn’t do it on an adult. And in those instances, it would be much better to call for help, which they will be taught to do.

“But they could still do it on someone their own age if they have been properly taught.

“It’s about giving them the confidence to know what to do in each situation.”

The classes will let the children learn through play, so they will be taught how to use bandages to dress wounds by practising on classmates. They will also get to practise chest compressions on specially-made dummies.

First aid for children has long been championed by former Colchester MP, Sir Bob Russell.

Sir Bob’s daughter Joanne died aged seven after she fell during a gym lesson at school.

Her teacher at the time performed first aid, but unfortunately she died three days later.

Sir Bob said: “The teacher was recently qualified in first aid and she actually saved my daughter.

“If it hadn’t been for this inspirational teacher then, she would have died in minutes. She did a fantastic job, but unfortunately my daughter’s injuries were too great.”

Sir Bob has previously tried to introduce legislation through Parliament to get first aid on the national school curriculum.

He said: “I would really like to congratulate Franklins.

“The first four minutes after an accident are the most crucial, the more people who know what to do the better.

“Teaching children first aid will not only teach them what to do in an emergency, but also more about their bodies and health.

“I firmly believe that if children learn first aid it will reduce drink and drug abuse in later life as children will become more aware.”