Lord Hutton: Should financial education be a part of the primary school curriculum?
Labour peer Lord Hutton says with 85% of young adults in favour of a better financial education, it may be time for the Government to look at making financial education in primary a statutory responsibility.
A recent report from the Financial Conduct Authority revealed widespread financial illiteracy among consumers. Disturbingly it showed 46% of all UK adults report low knowledge about financial matters, and two million adults can’t make sense of their pension statements, not including those that don’t even feel confident enough to attempt to comprehend them.
Many will be surprised to hear that research suggests attitudes to money are formed as early as 7. So, tackling the crisis in financial literacy needs to get to people very early, in primary school. Obviously, at this young age, children need not engage with complex financial matters but the basic principles -such as saving toward the things you want and budgeting for the things you need – can and should be learnt early on.
One project to trial the effectiveness of financial education at Key Stage 2 is KickStart Money, a collaborative project led by around 20 financial services firms. It funds the award-winning charity MyBnk to deliver financial education to primary school children and aims to reach 18,000 children across the UK. The programme uses innovative teaching techniques and is well under way. It is soon to reach its fiftieth school.
The programme has secured a grant from the government’s What Works Fund in order to test the effectiveness of the lessons. The programme is intended as a test-case for making financial education compulsory at primary school age. If it works, the government should act and make financial education in primary a statutory responsibility.
Like other public health and wellbeing initiatives schools teach about (like the dangers of smoking or sexual and reproductive health), financial wellbeing is something that impacts us all, both in terms of our own personal prosperity but also the strain that financial difficulty places on society – problem debt can lead to family breakdown, lead to increased welfare costs and trigger mental health problems.
And in deciding to act, the Government would be going with the grain of public opinion. 85% of young adults surveyed by the Money Advice Service said they wanted to be taught more about money in school.
Financial education is already on the secondary school curriculum in England, although implementation is believed to be patchy.
Now there is work going on to explore whether it could be incorporated into primary school education.
If it can be shown to improve financial literacy among young people, government should give serious consideration to making financial education part of the primary school curriculum.
The Rt Hon. the Lord Hutton of Furness is a Labour peer