Financial education must be improved, says think tank

Only one per cent of primary teachers think their students have adequate financial skills, a report from think tank Social Market Foundation (SMF) has found. 

Financial education is only compulsory at secondary school level in England, and the report suggests this means young people from more advantaged backgrounds are more likely to have received some form of financial education.

Dani Payne, senior researcher at SMF, said: “Having a financially literate population is an important part of a healthy and prosperous country. 

"Financial literacy has documented links to better physical and mental health, supports accumulation of wealth, and may also reduce the likelihood of people falling victim to fraud and being in debt. 

"Unfortunately, the UK currently has low levels of financial literacy compared to other developed countries, and levels of financial understanding tend to track existing socioeconomic inequalities."

The SMF’s survey revealed a number of obstacles to successfully integrate financial education into the primary curriculum in England. For example, just over 80 per cent of primary school teachers cited a lack of time as the biggest barrier to giving students a strong foundation in financial literacy. 

This was followed by a lack of resources (43 per cent), low prioritisation (42 per cent), and lack of expertise (37 per cent).

The SMF suggest that the assumption financial education must take place within maths represents a major potential pitfall for the policy. Sixty six per cent of teachers wanted financial education to be integrated into PSHE, and 41 per cent said it should be across multiple subjects.

The House of Commons education committee, whose chair Robin Walker will launch the report at an event in parliament later today, is carrying out an ongoing inquiry into the state of financial education.

David Blunkett, former education and employment secretary said in the foreword for the report: “By placing financial education more prominently in the primary school curriculum, we can ensure that we are setting up our children for a successful future.”

The SMF’s pathway to ensuring effective financial education in primary schools includes making financial education a statutory part of the English primary school curriculum, the Department for Education funding a digital central hub of training programmes and classroom resources for teachers, and integrating financial education into initial teacher training.

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