We need to teach financial literacy in all UK schools

IT IS significant the e-petition calling for compulsory financial education in schools has this week become one of the first petitions to reach the threshold of 100,000 signatures and that the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Financial Education for Young People is the largest in parliament, with 224 cross-party MPs.

We are a financially illiterate nation. The UK has the highest levels of personal debt per capita of any country in the G20 and the UK’s personal debt crisis has deepened by over 350 per cent in the last 10 years. We need to make fundamental changes to the way individuals manage their money, and we now have the popular support of both the public and parliamentarians to take this forward.

Financial education is a long-term solution to the national problem of irresponsible borrowing and personal insolvency. It is time to teach people about budgeting, good and bad debt, and personal finance so that they are able to manage their money more effectively in an increasingly complex financial world. Ensuring that every child in the country gets a basic understanding of personal finance and consumer rights before leaving school would enable the next generation of consumers to make informed decisions. It will equip the workforce with skills to succeed in business and drive forward economic growth.

Some schools already provide personal finance education, but provision is at best ad hoc. Schools face significant barriers to teaching personal finance education, including pressures on curriculum time, no statutory mandate, lack of teacher training, lack of teacher subject knowledge and confidence, and lack of awareness of suitable resources. It needs to be given curriculum time by government to guarantee that every child leaves school with at least a basic understanding of the financial decisions they will need to make as they embark on independent living, and the impact that these decisions will have on their wellbeing and future.

The APPG on Financial Education for Young People has undertaken a nine-month inquiry into how financial education can be provided in the national curriculum. We have conducted an online survey of over 850 teachers, received 41 written submissions from the education sector, financial services industry, student representation bodies, and individuals, and examined 38 witnesses from the education sector across the UK, the financial services industry, and independent commentators. The inquiry’s report, to be launched on 12 December, will provide conclusions and recommendations intended to help the government and schools build a sustainable model of personal finance education that equips young people with the skills and knowledge they need to become intelligent and responsible managers of their money.

We have the support for financial education, we have a framework of how it can be delivered, now is the time to debate this issue on the floor of the House and for the government to take this forward.

Justin Tomlinson MP is the chair of the Financial Education for Young People APPG.