On the 29th of March, the Centre for Financial Capability organised a charity event in UK Parliament to push for widespread and standardised financial education in the UK.
The event raised awareness of the necessity of financial resilience in younger generations to ensure they grow up to make responsible and sound financial decisions.
The Centre for Financial Capability argued that children in the UK are not equipped with the skills required to form sound judgement on financial matters later in life. The organisation reasoned that earlier intervention of financial education in schools could make a significant difference in childrens’ lives. Currently, only 1 in 5 children in primary schools have access to financial education.
The event called for the implementation of three decrees: to ensure every child in primary school receives an impactful financial education by 2030; that unclaimed assets in the savings and investment sector should be set aside to develop and deliver financial education for primary-aged children; and to provide teachers with the resources required to teach children about financial education.
MP John Penrose attended the event and spoke to Finextra about the extent to which financial education at a young age will benefit the nation in the long run by making more financially conscious adults. He added that with the rapid acceleration of digital wallets and online payments, it remains essential for the community to understand the fundamentals of handling money.
“It's really important that MPs from all parties right across the spectrum get on board. Financial education is quite patchy in some parts of the country. It is done well in some schools and not as well in others; there are big regional disparities. It’s in the national curriculum. It is mandatory in secondary, not primary, but you aren't supposed to leave school without having learned financial literacy in some parts. It's part of the PSHE curriculum.”
Stewart Parry, Director of the Centre for Financial Capability, stressed that every child deserves a financial education, and this event was designed to push that agenda forward to the prime minister and ensure that every student in the UK gets an effective financial education by 2030.
Parry confirmed the point that while that there is financial education in the secondary school curriculum in England, it is a devolved issue. Parliaments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are working on secondary school curriculum, but the delivery is lacking. There are teachers within these schools who are not aware that it is included in the curriculum due to a lack of guidance.
CEO of children’s financial education charity RedSTART, Sarah Marks, detailed how the organisation works exclusively with disadvantaged primary schools to integrate financial education into the curriculum by going into schools twice a year from year one to year six. Marks explained that teachers are not against the process, but are struggling to integrate more courses in their already overflowing workloads.
Marks cited research being conducted in collaboration with Kings College London on maintaining financial literacy from a young age and its impact. She furthered that the study will track students who are taught financial education courses from year one onwards and examine how they progress into secondary school and beyond by checking test scores and bank data to determine the value of the cause.
In how engaged children are with the source material, Marks describes a “carousel teaching” lesson plan in which there are multiple tables set up where students can move around and interact with money using games and situational problems. A Cambridge University study found that childrens habits are formed at the age of seven, and Marks explains that this applies to financial habits as well. Creating an emotional relationship with money in primary school can determine how students manage it when they grow up. This is especially relevant now during the cost of living crisis, where children are seeing their parents struggle financially at home.
“We are linking teaching money with math. Understanding of the money is a part of what it's about, but actually learning math is your superpower. Nobody is going to be able to take money away from you without you realising what they are up to. The teachers have told us that children that will sit in a math class and look at the ceiling tiles, but become really engaged when you start talking about money. It's a real life application they can relate to.”
Speaking to the anxiety surrounding finances due to the cost of living crisis and the influx of digitisation, Parry comments: “Digitisation is a key issue. You have lots of people looking to influencers on social media for financial advice, some are very good, but there's people out there that might not have the right intentions. That's just freely accessible. Things like Bitcoin, crypto, and in the schools we go to students are talking about and V-Bucks which is the money you get through the game Fortnite. It is all online, and a card is probably the most physical it gets. It's pretty complex world. Things are bad, but let's just help kids understand it and build a resilience as they grow up, not when they get thrown into the deep end.”