With the increasing importance of financial education in society, is it time to call for action?

With the increasing importance of financial education in society, is it time to call for action?

By Simon Hunt

It’s hard not to be cynical about ‘national this’ and ‘national that’ days – but one new initiative held earlier in the year, in June grabbed my attention for the right reasons. The “My Money Week’ is a national project to encourage financial education in schools. The Personal Finance Education Group (Pfeg), the group behind it, has been campaigning for better financial education in schools for years, and hopes this idea will become an annual fixture on the education calendar.

Let’s hope so. So many of the financial problems we worry about today – from excessive debt to being mis-sold – could be avoided if people had a better understanding of their finances and felt confident enough to take action for themselves. Unfortunately many young people today leave school ill-equipped to take charge of their financial affairs – just as generations of school leavers before them.

The good news is that we’ve made a start. Since September 2014, the national curriculum has included financial education (thanks in no small part to the efforts of Pfeg). Now we need to make sure educators are properly equipped to do the job – that they’ve got the right knowledge to pass on to students and the right materials to get the message across.

This is a golden opportunity for financial services businesses to start winning back trust – and to begin building enduring relationships with their next generation of customers. We’ve seen some useful initiatives already. Two major high street banks, for example, have put together good packs of financial education resources for teachers thinking about how to deliver financial education in the class room.

So far, however, these projects are reaching only limited numbers of schools – and therefore a small minority of students. In fact, every school in the country – primary and secondary – needs support as they think about how to deliver age-appropriate and engaging education in a subject area that teachers have never before been asked to cover.

This is also an opportunity to improve basic numeracy skills, which employers and higher education establishments often complain are lacking in school leavers. One reason many students find maths difficult or dull is that it’s frequently abstract. Financial education is a brilliant opportunity to teach maths in a way that has clear applications to people’s everyday lives.

Getting financial education into schools on a statutory basis was just a first step. Unless we make a concerted effort to promote it, this is a subject teachers are unlikely to prioritise as they puzzle over how to deliver a crowded curriculum. Let’s help them out.

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