2 years on: financial education sees lacklustre growth

By Marianne Curphey

From the start of the September 2014 academic year, secondary school pupils have been learning about money, either as part of math lessons or citizenship classes. Children between the ages of 11 and 14 are taught about the importance of budgeting, money management and a range of financial products.

When they reach 14, teens learn more technical lessons about wages, taxes, credit, debt and financial risk, as well as more complicated financial products and services.

Two years into the financial education programme, though, some say too little has been achieved. financial-education

Lack of funding, motivation leads to lacklustre growth
"Financial education in school has not necessarily had the impact we expected," says Russell Winnard, head of educator facing programmes and services at Young Enterprise, a charity that encourages financial skills among young people.

In a report published in autumn 2016, based on a survey of 126 teachers and in-depth interviews with six, the Money Charity observed "very little uptick in demand from schools" and that teachers were struggling to fit financial education into the school timetable. About two-thirds of those interviewed said they felt the programme was ineffective.

"We find that, while most schools deliver some finance education, teachers have little faith in its quality and are held back by insufficient time, negligible resources and school leaderships who do not view it as a high priority," the report says. "Teachers were simply expected to deliver financial education by themselves. But as our research shows, the vast majority of teachers believe that their schools do not currently have the expertise to do this."

Teachers surveyed called for better resources and leadership to improve the programme.

Dan Britton, an advocate of financial education who also runs the Personal Finance Academy, agrees that progress has been "patchy".

"There have been some examples of very good practice, and other instances where it has been pretty much ignored," he says.

He says that financial education is as important, if not more important, as other skills such as learning computer coding, and yet coding has taken off in schools in a way that money skills have not.

"Financial education is a very important aspect of learning, and I do believe that it needs more of a push in schools," he says.

Success hard to measure for now
Guy Rigden - CEO of MyBnk, which provides a range of financial education workshops for 11- to 25-year-olds in secondary schools and youth organisations - says there are issues around measuring the success of the programme so far.

"My concern is that not all students are getting it, or are getting the quality that is needed," he says.

He is optimistic, however, that The Money Advice Service will launch a new initiative that will quantify and measure the way in which financial education is delivered.

He says he would like to see data to show whether the initial programmes are successful and fit for purpose.

How can the programme be improved?
The Money Charity says the first step is for policymakers to take financial education seriously - and that might mean including some of the principles in maths lessons and making it part of an examined subject.

"What is clear from our research is that teachers are simply not currently prepared to deliver good financial education," it says. "Both through teaching resources and direct delivery from outside experts this can improve, but will need funding."

In May 2016, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People published its report on the impact and effectiveness of financial education in schools, 18 months after the initiative was launched.

Among its recommendations were that lessons on money management should start earlier, and both current and new teachers must receive appropriate support. It also recommended that a new money guidance body should coordinate and signpost best practice in financial education for teachers.

The Money Advice service is about to investigate what constitutes best practice, and a number of providers have agreed to take part in the evaluation survey.

Overall, Winnard believes that education in schools remains prevalent.

"For financial education to work, it's important that schools understand its value to young people," he says. "We believe prevention is beter than cure, and financial education could help reduce the number of young people who get into financial difficulty in adulthood."

If your school lacks time or resources to teach your child about money properly, you can help by discussing finances in the home, says Philip Pearson, an independent financial adviser with P&P Invest and a father of two.

"Schools don't know how to impart the value of money," he says. "They can give information about financial products but not about budgeting and valuing your own time in creating money. They don't have the scope for that. Instead, financial education starts in the home."

See also: Financial education coming to the classroom, Two universities make credit card education priority

Updated: 19 October 2016