Schools failing kids when it comes to finance

11 March 2008
A government body has warned that the “incoherent” way personal finance is currently taught in schools is leaving pupils ill-equipped to manage their money.

A report from Ofsted warns that too many people leave education unable to sufficiently manage their money despite personal finance being incorporated into a range of core subjects at some schools.

Moneywise is currently petitioning the government for personal finance to be introduced to the National Curriculum as a stand-alone subject as part of our Kids and Cash campaign.

Currently, some schools across the UK include personal finance education within other compulsory lessons, such as maths and even childcare.

But the Ofsted report reveals that the “diverse” nature of this provision is not providing students with a comprehensive education. It also warns that a lack of teacher training is resulting in mis-information being passed on to students.

The report also identifies shortcomings in the ways some schools use maths lessons as a platform for personal finance education. It warns that the focus is mainly on mathematical skills rather than understanding financial products. For example, unlike maths there is often no right answer to financial problems but rather a range of options each with their advantages and disadvantages.

Miriam Rosen, director of education at Ofsted, said: “Personal finance is not always a priority for teachers and finding the time to teach it is difficult as the curriculum is already full.”

The report found that the non-statutory nature of personal finance education means it is often a lower priority to schools and teachers.

However, Rosen admits that accredited courses in personal finance offer an advantage to pupils as they set out clear targets and include assessment through exams and coursework.

The ifs School of Finance has backed the Moneywise campaign to get personal finance onto the National Curriculum as a stand-alone subject.

Anne Kiem, a director at the ifs School of Finance, said: “The [Ofsted] report clearly identifies the fact that a standalone, nationally recognised qualification is far more effective in producing financially capable young people.

“As a result, we very much hope that the government properly considers the findings of this report and looks again at adding a standalone qualification in personal finance to the core school curriculum.”

The government says it is committed to improving the financial education children receive at school. From September 2008, economic well-being and financial capability will be included as part of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education in secondary schools. And from 2010, personal finance will also be incorporated into maths lessons at GCSE level.

However, these will not be a compulsory part of the syllabus and students will not be monitored through exams to monitor their progress.

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