All state schools in England will have a defibrillator by the end of the 2022/23 academic year, the government has announced.
Department for Education (DfE) officials met campaigners including Mark King, whose 12-year-old son Oliver suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while competing in a swimming race in 2011.
King and former England footballer Jamie Carragher have been working together to push for mandatory defibrillators in all schools.
Research shows that accessing a defibrillator within three to five minutes of a cardiac arrest increases the chance of survival by over 40%.
Since meeting King, who set up the Oliver King Foundation in memory of his son, the government has worked with charities such as the British Heart Foundation to identify the scale of need across schools in England.
State-funded schools will be surveyed to assess the number of devices needed to ensure all have access, with the figure estimated at more than 20,000 in total.
The government has committed to funding at least one defibrillator in every school, with more for larger campuses. The first deliveries are expected to begin before Christmas.
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The DfE said the rollout would build on existing requirements for schools to teach first aid as part of the curriculum, with secondary pupils taught life-saving methods such as CPR and why defibrillators work.
The education secretary, James Cleverly, said: “Access to funding must not stand in the way of every school having on-site access to a life-saving defibrillator.
“The evidence clearly shows that defibrillators drastically increase the chance of survival from a cardiac arrest, and it’s particularly important that they are available close to sports halls and playing fields that children, young people and the wider community use on a daily basis.
“That is why I am so pleased to be able to roll these devices out to schools across the country over the coming year, and I hope this goes some way to preventing more tragic stories like Oliver King’s.”
King said: “It’s been 11 years since we tragically lost our Ollie to a sudden cardiac arrest while he was taking part in a school swimming lesson. If there had been a defibrillator on site, our son would still be alive today.
“Since 2012 we’ve fought with tenacity to make defibrillators mandatory in all schools. I’m therefore delighted that, after our decade-long fight, the government has finally listened and schools will now be equipped with them.
“It will mean families up and down the country won’t ever have to go through the pain that we did when we lost our Ollie. I am thankful to the MPs and ministers who’ve supported our campaign and particularly all of those at the Department for Education.”
Carragher said: “This is fantastic news and is testament to the relentless and unwavering campaigning of Mark and Joanne King who’ve fought so hard for this moment.
“They are an inspirational 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 am proud to have played a small part in supporting them and I am delighted that the government has committed to installing this lifesaving kit in all schools.”
The government said that many schools would already have defibrillators on site but that the programme would work to “plug the gaps” and ensure that all state schools had at least one device.
The equipment could also be used by any outside sports teams using school facilities.