Champion financial education to young people

Did you participate in Financial Capability Week earlier this month? It’s clear young people are losing out from a lack of teaching on financial education at school. A recent Financial Lives survey from the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA); ‘Understanding the financial lives of UK adults’ revealed 18‑24-year olds rate themselves as the least confident and knowledgeable of all UK adults about managing money and financial matters. These young people must be given the education they need to understand and manage their money to avoid financial difficulty now and in the future.

But it’s difficult to get your head around developing financially capable young people when you’re not 100% confident in the topic yourself. Maybe you’ve never quite understood how compound interest works or perhaps planning ways to save doesn’t come easily to you. It can be challenging to impart ‘expertise’ on your students if you don’t feel particularly money savvy yourself.

Many of us in the education sphere are probably victim to the lack of financial education in our own lives. It’s reported that one in five financial education teachers are not confident teaching the topic [1], ever since its statutory inclusion in the new national curriculum in 2014. Yet teaching financial capability and employability skills are fundamental to improving social mobility, with the gap in young people’s financial capabilities showing a worrying link between confidence in managing money and negative money habits.[2]

Most teachers I’ve met get this. They want their students to leave school knowing what a bank account is and why budgeting is important. But how to turn this into action? 

From my recent experience building primary school financial literacy projects run by the Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership (THEBP) and, more recently, delivering the Money Charity’s well-established money workshops in secondary schools, I’ve picked up some insight into how to make financial education more palatable to teachers struggling to fit it into their teaching.

  1. Make it interactive – Financial education can be fun with opportunities for experiential learning. LifeSkills is a good place to start with lots of tools and videos to help you guide students with budgeting and prioritising spending. You can access these resources now and explore how you could integrate these into your teaching.
  2. Cross-curricular – Money can be approached from a range of angles, from object-based learning in history to currency exchange or Fairtrade consumption in geography, to being inventive about the money of the future in art and design. Consider talking to your colleagues about ways your institution can fit finance education into lessons, asides from business, maths and PSHE.
  3. Free resources – There is so much rich existing programming and expert learning resources out there. As well as LifeSkills free new curriculum-linked resources, Young Enterprise/pfeg, also host a whole menu of quality-marked financial education resources.
  4. Get outside help – Why not bring financial education to life for your students and request outside experts come in and deliver, to meet your financial education provision needs? If you’re based in London, Tower Hamlets EBP runs volunteer programmes bringing corporate volunteers from the financial sector and other sectors into the classroom locally. On a national level, The Money Charity offers free workshops, which are delivered by consultants. You can also request a LifeSkills volunteer come in to your classroom to deliver a lesson.
  5. Be proactive – The Money Charity’s research says it takes a financial education champion in a school to make any provision a reality. Getting it on the curriculum isn’t enough, it’s the people, not the policy, that makes it happen so why not consider nominating a financial education champion at your school to really get behind it? 

Thinking about England, which is where I focus my work, the good news is the moment is ripe for financial education in the policy world. A consultation is underway to consider making PSHE education statutory in all schools in England, with the ‘E’ for ‘Economic’ containing opportunities for financial education. This ought to bolster the work done to get financial education onto the curriculum in England under maths and citizenship. It seems that in Northern Ireland, employability and financial education are a key part of pupils learning as part of the curriculum.

Moreover, the Money Advice Service is making financial education a critical and strategic priority, including figuring out what really works, and conducting a survey to understand what schools are already doing, in which lessons, and what the barriers to doing more are. 

Most people in my personal life joke about me being in the business of financial education. I’m like the cardiologist with the heart problem. But I feel I’ve been the biggest beneficiary of the projects I deliver and am involved with. If I can become a financial education champion, so can any teacher.

[1] APPG on Financial Education for Young People’s report, May 2016
[2] Money Advice Service, Habit Formation in Young Children, May 2013 

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