The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) launched a new initiative in November 2021 to promote ‘Financial Education Guidance for Primary Schools in England’. It will act as the co-ordinator of the 10-year UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing, and IFA Magazine says it is “aimed at encouraging conversations about money in the classroom by setting out ten steps schools can take to boost the delivery of financial education.”
“The launch coincides with this year’s Talk Money Week campaign, which has highlighted the importance of money conversations in the home, alongside more formal financial education, in developing good money habits in childhood which will last a lifetime.”
“Children who say they learned about managing money in school are more likely to save up frequently and be more confident managing their money. With only 37% of 7 to 17-year-olds in England recalling having had any financial education at school, equipping teachers to have conversations about money in the classroom is vital. Learning about topics such as budgeting, saving, and managing credit in schools is essential to ensure children gain the skills and confidence they need to manage money now and in later life.”
Knowledge and skills shortage
Faye Gibney, Deputy Headteacher at Shawley Community Primary School (Currently on secondment from Cheam Park Farm Primary Academy), adds that there are too many children are leaving school without the necessary financial knowledge and skills to make well informed financial decisions in later life.
“As research shows us, children start developing money habits from age 3. Schools must ensure all pupils are receiving a meaningful financial education and the earlier we start teaching children, the better!”
She adds: “As research shows us, children start developing money habits from age 3. Schools must ensure all pupils are receiving a meaningful financial education and the earlier we start teaching children, the better!”
As adults, she explains, financial decisions are made each and every day. Not all of these decisions will be to our benefit – particularly if we haven’t had any education in how manage money and budgets. She therefore argues that these key life skills need to begin in the primary school classroom. However, it’s not just about financial prudence. Our relationship with money, or the lack of it, can have a direct impact on our mental health. So, “It is paramount we ensure all children leave school with the financial capability to manage their money successfully and lead healthy, happy and money positive lives,” she suggests.
Maths: Real-life application
Freelance Supply Teacher of Mathematics, Patrick Magnus, agrees. He believes that there is a need for the real-life application of Maths – particularly amongst students of the subject. “This is because it teaches one to think hard, and this process can be quite abstract.” An understanding of basic maths is essential as the bedrock of good financial, money management. He nevertheless fears that the lack of obvious or immediate application of Maths can frustrate students and parents.
Yet teachers, he says, can enable them both to put real-life financial situations into perspective: “Part of the role of the teacher is to provide practical applications of each topic, alongside the theory and worked examples. For example, the mathematics of transformations can be used in art and design. Consequently, it’s helpful if the teacher elicits or provides this information. Financial education as part of mathematical education, is therefore an excellent way to bring the theory and practice of mathematics to life. It’s really useful, for almost everyone!”
Impact: Covid-19 pandemic
Financial education isn’t new in schools, so what does the guidance suggest will be different with the new strategy? Well, first of all, Gibney believes the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will be felt for years to come. She claims that it has affected this generation of schoolchildren in ways that are still largely unknown: “Financial worry and anxiety in the home may have been more prominent in many families due to the unfortunate job losses, unstable job security or use of furlough schemes or loans as a direct result of the Pandemic.”
In her view educators therefore need to take the impact of the Pandemic into consideration whenever they deliver financial education lessons. This is because of the increased financial instability that many families have faced since March 2022. Subsequently, she argues that educators have a “responsibility to ensure we are preparing children for the necessary financial knowledge. skills and healthy money habits required for successful futures and to limit the negative impact of the pandemic for our pupils.”
Improving teacher confidence
Michael Hepburn, Teacher of Economics and Debating at South Hampstead High School, considers the extent to which financial education should be part of the existing school curriculum – including at secondary school and at colleges – particularly as it could increase teachers’ workloads. He thinks there is an initial need for teachers to feel comfortable discussing finances with students:
“Part of the problem there is a lack of teachers having confidence in their own financial management. Another is that society often dislikes discussing money. For example, in many schools, staff don’t know each other’s salaries…”
“Part of the problem there is a lack of teachers having confidence in their own financial management. Another is that society often dislikes discussing money. For example, in many schools, staff don’t know each other’s salaries. That culture of ‘salary secrecy’ and the idea that discussing money is gauche and ill-mannered harms open discussion about financial realities.”
He finds it leads to an increase in teachers’ workload and argues that it demonstrates a need for serious reform of our education system to reduce term-time workload. This could, he suggests, be achieved by hiring support staff – such as supply teachers. By increasing the number of support staff, schools could offer a wider variety of extra curricula activities.
Reducing the admin that teachers have to undertake could also free them to teach topics such as financial education. He’d conversely like to see the number of hours teachers work to be cut. “Without addressing these problems, new initiatives such as this one will struggle even though they are incredibly worthwhile,” he says.
Financial education services and resources
So, what financial education services nd resources are available to help schools, including those targeted at children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities? Gibney asks: “Where do I begin?” She suggests the following resources provide teachers with lesson plans, printable resources, videos, workshops, top tips, continuous provision ideas, interactive games, home learning links and even storybooks. Here are just some the resources she would highly recommend schools to look into:
- Young Money financial education planning framework
- PSHE education programme of study
- Young Money and Centres of Excellence programme/Quality Mark
- NatWest MoneySense resources
- Money Heroes by HSBC and Young Money
- My Money Week in June by Young Money
- Barclays LifeSkills
- Santander MoneyWise
Tips: improving financial education
With resources in mind, her top tips for improving financial education in schools are:
- Appoint an enthusiastic financial education Leader who will drive the subject forward.
- Audit the current provision in your school using the planning framework and spend time looking at the high-quality resources available.
- Engage all stakeholders (pupils, staff, and parents) and train staff on how to deliver the framework.
- Embed and weave the financial education curriculum into your current offer across the whole school.
- Provide practical opportunities in the classroom to engage and make learning as realistic to real life as possible by using banks, workshops, and trips in your local area.
“…there is a need to help teachers to learn about financial literacy – going beyond what they would normally teach. This includes helping them to understand Why index funds are best for saving, why credit card debt is some of the worst debt, and how to improve your credit rating.”
Hepburn adds that there is a need to help teachers to learn about financial literacy – going beyond what they would normally teach. This includes helping them to understand Why index funds are best for saving, why credit card debt is some of the worst debt, and how to improve your credit rating.” The next challenge is to motivate teachers to ensure they are inspired to teach financial education as this will have a knock-on effect on the children they teach, and upon their parents.
He adds that teachers and schools should: “Address aspects of financial mismanagement that often go unnoticed. The UK has 2 million problem gamblers, yet we rarely talk in PSHE or elsewhere about WHY people make the decision to gamble beyond ‘it’s an addiction’ which is a lazy and disingenuous answer.” A realisation of their importance can be gained by using “real-life examples to show how wealth disparities happen. For example, saving a small amount for 45 years versus saving a lot for 20; or renting until you are 35 vs renting your whole life”, he advises.
Hepburn is right to argue that financial education should occur at every key stage. Gibney concurs with this view. At Key Stage 2 (KS2), he believes it’s enough to teach spending and saving. At KS3, he suggests financial education should teach compounding returns by educating pupils about compound interest. At KS4, it should be about how to “understand the psychology beyond saving or spending and the various rationalisations people use to avoid saving”, he suggests before commenting that at KS5 financial education should be about teaching students to understand index funds, credit cards, interest rates, mortgages etc.
Essential: Teacher training
The platform for teaching financial education has to be teacher training. “There should be financial education offered within every course at university – including [as part of] PGCE [courses], [because] adults struggle with finances.”
By having the right training in financial education, teachers will be empowered to teach it, and they will also be able to gain by creating more financial education champions in schools. Gibney believes there is a need for more passionate leaders across the country, and that they can ensure that “this essential curriculum is being delivered and to the highest standard.” However, she concludes, much depends on schools providing teachers with the training, support, and resources they need to teach financial education.
After the first lesson in the subject, she insists there is no going back: “We all want to see our pupils lead successful, independent and happy lives. By having a strong financial awareness, positive mindset towards money and being fully equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in life will ensure we move towards a brighter, financial future for all.” Financial education is therefore essential to the future of each child, and to the future of the country and its economy as a whole.