THOUSANDS more pupils in the News's circulation area will receive first aid training, thanks to the renewal of a sponsorship deal.

Boehringer Ingelheim, in association with the News, funded a St John Ambulance schools liaison officer position last year and the Bracknell-based pharmaceutical firm has agreed to part-sponsor the role this year as well.

The partnership meant schools receive free first aid training, having to pay a nominal amount for administrations costs, thereby saving them hundreds of pounds a time.

In the first 12 months of its operation, St John Ambulance instructors gave training to about 9,000 youngsters in the Bracknell, Wokingham and Ascot area.

Mike Purdy, headteacher of Great Hollands Primary - one of the schools to benefit from our scheme - said: "We feel that teaching First Aid equips our children with lifesaving skills that they can use to help others in and out of school for the rest of their lives so what could be more important?

"The first aid scheme in Berkshire is sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, a local company to us, which was brilliant because costs would have high for these sessions and school might have struggled to meet these costs but because of this local business support the school was able to meet the additional cost so the session ended up free to everyone which was fantastic. Thank you."

Younger children take part in 'teddy bear' sessions, teaching bandaging, basic casualty care and how to make an emergency call, to the more comprehensive Young First Aider qualification for older children in Year Five upwards. Spread over six hours, youngsters learn how to perform CPR, put casualties in the recovery position, treat choking, bleeding, asthma and shock and how to manage a first aid incident.

Duncan Cantor, communications director at Boehringer Ingelheim, said: "We are delighted that, for the second year running, we are a position to sponsor a St John Ambulance Schools Liaison Officer for Berkshire in association with the Bracknell News.

"It was the perfect extension to the work we have done in the past four years with both the newspaper and St John, working together to train dozens of parents and carers in basic first aid skills though our Child Lifesaver courses.

"By helping them to lean the basic first aid skills they may, one day, be in a position to save someone's life and that, for me, is a pretty good legacy for any company to have."

Julie Gilbert, schools trainer for Berkshire St John Ambulance, said; 'The support we've had from Boehringer Ingleheim in the past 12 months has enabled us to reach out to lots of schools in the Bracknell area and equip their pupils with the skills needed to be the difference between a life lost and a life saved. At St John Ambulance we believe that learning first aid should be a part of growing up like learning the alphabet as it's a skill for life. Thanks to Boehringer we have built lots of new relationships which we hope will continue for many years to come.'