Financial education coming to the classroom

By Emma Lunn

Adults often learn lessons about debt, credit and money management the hard way. Starting in 2014, children in the UK will start learning those lessons years in advance -- in secondary school.

A new draft curriculum has been published, which will see financial education included in both maths and in citizenship lessons. Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced a public consultation on the curriculum, which will run until 16 April. A final version of the new curriculum will be given to schools in September this year, and money management lessons will begin September 2014.

Under the draft curriculum, children between the ages of 11 and 14 will be taught about the importance of budgeting, money management and a range of financial products. When they reach the age of 14, they will learn some more technical lessons about wages, taxes, credit, debt, financial risk and more complicated financial products and services. financial-education

The move is a victory for a number of campaigners who have long fought for children in England to be taught basic money management skills. In 2011, the movement got a swell of support within parliament from the 251-member All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Financial Education for Young People, chaired by Justin Tomlinson, MP.

 Personal finance is already taught in some schools throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, although on a strictly voluntary basis.

"This is a giant leap forward for financial education in the UK," says Tracey Bleakley, chief executive of Personal Finance Education Group (pfeg). "Teaching young people about personal finance has never been more important, and we are delighted that these vital life skills have finally been given the place they deserve on the curriculum."

The draft curriculum means the campaign has achieved both of its objectives: for financial mathematics to be included as a part of maths and for financial capability to be included in citizenship education.  The citizenship component will focus on the topics of credit and debt.

"This should include how a credit card works, the cost of missing repayments on borrowing and where to go if you fall into difficulty," Bleakley says.

Because the exact curriculum is still being debated, how exactly students will learn these lessons in the classroom remains to be seen. Yet schools that have already been including personal finance in their curriculum may offer an example. One school that already teaches financial education is Southlands High School in Chorley, Lancashire, which has been teaching kids about money in a joint project with the Debt Advice Foundation. In addition to learning about money, students are encouraged to teach each other.

"Our lessons, which 14-to-16-year-olds teach to primary pupils, are all about attitudes to money -- knowing the difference between needs and wants, understanding the importance of having a budget and sticking to it, having a sensible attitude about money," said Brian Souter, the Debt Advice Foundation's education manager, in a news release.

Having money education become compulsory could help the UK benefit from the success Southlands High School has already seen.

"Money management is a critically important skill," Souter said. "Our lessons in primary schools have been extremely successful and I believe that is where they should start. But to have them on the curriculum for secondary schools is a huge victory."

See related: How to make your adult children financially independent, How young is too young for a prepaid card?

Published: 27 February 2013