/ Money, Parenting

We need compulsory personal finance education in schools

Young child with abacus and blackboard

We’ve been calling for compulsory personal finance education for a number of years. We want young people to manage their money confidently. And our survey results show it’s needed now more than ever.

The Which? quarterly consumer report has been set up to help us see where people’s living standards are improving or declining. And in the case of the younger generation, it’s the latter.

In our report, due out tomorrow, we found 18-29 year-olds are bearing the brunt of the current economic crisis. On average, each household in the UK is £5,000 in debt – owing 21p for every £1 they earn. It’s the worst for young people who owe 47p for every £1 they earn.

Sadly one in ten confirmed they were unable pay one of their bills in the past month and 45% said they always or often run out of money each month (compared with 38% of all consumers).

A long time coming

I’m a board member for the Personal Finance Educational Group (Pfeg) a finance education charity which offers help and advice to anyone teaching children and young people about money.

Pfeg, working with supporters from the financial services industry, consumer groups and educational specialists, has been instrumental in bringing the issue to those who can ring in the changes – the government. And a campaign led by Martin Lewis has shown the enormous support the public has for the issue as 118,862 individuals signed his petition to make financial education a compulsory part of the school curriculum.

Which? supports the mission because we want to ensure young people are financially capable to make informed choices with their money.

Economic education in schools

In November 2011, Pfeg made a submission to the government when it was reviewing personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education. The charity argued that personal finance should be firmly embedded in any PSHE education programmes of study from 5 to 16.

We were delighted to see the All Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People, recommend including financial education in the tuition of both maths and PSHE. Schools minister Nick Gibb is currently looking at the issue as part of the government’s curriculum review.

Mastering numeracy

Whether the responsibility lies with PSHE or maths tuition is an issue you’ve aired with us before. Phil thought we could do more to get the basics right:

‘No good trying to teach children how to handle their finances until they’ve mastered basic numeracy.’

And William said we need to learn to live within our means:

‘I think that it is essential that financial education should be taught in schools. [It’s] the principal reason that so many countries, as well as ourselves, are in the financial mess that we are in today.’

And MB wished they’d had classes at school:

‘As someone who has been useless with money all my life I wish I had had financial education at school, surely it is as important as any other subject and if learnt at young age, would hopefully become second nature by the time a child leaves school or starts work.’

Were you taught to manage your finances when you were at school? What part of the curriculum do you think could take on the challenge?


The very businesses that have been dishing out vast amounts of money with little or no checking, creating most of the problems and cuts we all face now, are now the same businesses (read: banks) that are going into schools alongside regulators, consumer groups and those incharge of our education system, telling us that we need to educate our children on financial matters!

In case Which? have forgotten, we, the taxpayers, have funded a bailout of RBS (to name but one) to the tune of £45 BILLION (currently sitting on a predicted loss of £25 BILLION for the taxpayer that we will never get back).
According to the regulator, the Financial Services Authority, their report into RBS near collapse (printed only under duress when the parliamentary select committee ordered it to do so) revealed substantial failings in the inspection and light touch lack of regulation caused them to over stretch their borrowings and growth on the back of cheap borrowing.
The regulation at fault came from the Hampton report in March 2005, which consulted only “stakeholders” ie, businesses and banks themselves.
Banks influenced the regulation that failed and caused one of the biggest financial catastrophes in history.

“PFEG, working with supporters from the financial services industry”
Is a campaign coming (with self proclaimed expert in saving money) from Which? to let those in the financial industry into schools to educate our children?
Barclays, a bank that has admitted telling lies in the setting of the Libor, is already “giving advice” to teenagers on how to handle their finances!

Is it any wonder that no banks are prosecuted, no banks have their consumer credit license removed, no bank has even lost it’s “compliant” status (and all the light regulation benefits that come with it) with the FSA, when consumer groups are “working with” the very businesses/regulators that have failed the people.

The idea that financial organisations that have taken money from taxation (cuts to benefits and services and increased taxation for my family) to pay for their own lack of financial knowledge, will now be going into schools alongside consumer groups and a financial journalist, to educate my children on financial management is an insult.

Which? and consumer focus are getting too close to regulators and business.

Sorry – I used to teach personal finance (AKA budgeting) to our non exam children at my slum school – I could not teach it to the exam children because of timetable constraints – until Thatcher decided to dictate what I could actually teach via The National Curriculum.- This did NOT include personal finance to anyone. I had to teach exactly what Thatcher dictated – and OFSTED “inspected”. So please blame Government for the failure.

It would also help if teachers were not universally denigrated by those who don’t teach particularly Tory governments. During my 35 years of teaching in a slum school the number of Maths graduates teaching there was exactly TWO – because of poor pay and atrocious conditions – When Thatcher arrived – Maths and Science teachers left in droves why? Because there was far better working conditions and pay elsewhere. An English graduate for instance had far less chance of a worthwhile job in industry so English graduates were always well represented in all schools whereas there were always well paid Industrial vacancies for Maths and Science. – Science teachers IME were predominantly Biology Specialists. Interestingly I wanted to read Entomology and had an “intern-ship” with the British Natural History Museum until I found I would need a PhD before I was allowed to identify British Lepidoptera for visitors – So I turned to Physics then to Mathematics..

Before Thatcher there were actually useful jobs for the less academically inclined – Sadly She sold Britain off to her Tory Chummies and now we don’t have useful jobs even for graduates. Not to mention a £40,000 life time debt for the “privilege” of Studying.

frances says:
24 July 2012

I’m inclined to agree with ‘frugal ways’

If the incumbents are let loose in the classroom
all it will do is ensure the present mayhem continues on into the future.
Perhaps that’s the idea.

Nobody should teach children about money until they know what it is.
Richard Duncan says “it shouldn’t be made out of paper.” When the question
was put to Alan Greenspan he said “I don’t know. But we’re working on it.”
Others say our present system of issuing money as debt is nothing short of racketeering.

The tale of “Joseph’s Cent” is impressive.
1 cent invested in the year 0 at 5% interest compounded will be worth
500 billion balls of gold the weight of the Earth in the year 2000.
The student will be pleased to have got his sums right, and even more delighted
with the idea of receiving such a dividend. All you have to do is stick around.
But there’s another side to this coin. Who pays ?

An open minded, well informed teacher (Margrit Kennedy, Ellen Brown, plenty more)
could do wonders. But a syllabus based on promoting our current ideas of finance
would be a waste of time.

Thanks for sharing your comments. Just to clarify for frugal ways and frances – the idea of Pfeg is to equip teachers with the skills and materials to teach personal finance education to students themselves.

As I said on twitter, the idea/aim is fine, but is it achievable?

Who will carry out and educate the teachers so they can teach our children?
Can you honestly say that the banking industry will have no input?
I don’t believe you can…. not only have they totally messed up the current financial climate, they have shaped regulation to benefit their own profit margins, they are in effect, exempt from the law regarding penalty bank charges, they have been caught out lying by regulators outside of the EU, otherwise they would have gotten away with it?
The scale of mis-selling their own products is mind numbing!

If anything the financial industry and their colleagues (and they are colleagues – Philip Hampton who set the ball rolling with the Hampton report into light touch regulation, is now head of RBS if memory serves me right?) who sit in regulation, have given us all a lesson in how NOT to manage money and financial products.
I would go further still, if my child was to be taught how to manage their money in school, I would remove my child from that lesson.

The financial industry cannot be trusted – examples and subject matter are plentiful enough for a three year course at least.
Pfeg, working with supporters from the financial services industry, consumer groups
Pfeg are marketing banks as “supporters from the financial industry” – they cannot even be honest enough to call them banks!
I am very concerned also about consumer groups involvement, in light of the Which? complaint to OFCOM over the Three raising prices issue, in that Which? say it is acceptable to pay “early termination fees” to mobile phone providers in some circumstances – despite these being penalty charges and unenforceable under common law and never having been tested in a high court in England & Wales, same goes for Which? silence on unenforceable bank charges, etc.
When the self proclaimed saving money expert is mentioned, that throws any credibility out of the window for me.

The best way to educate our children in financial management is to look around and show them examples of how good financial management is rewarded and the benefits of it…. in today’s world, examples of this are few and far between!

frances says:
24 July 2012

Hello Charlotte,

Margrit Kennedy has said :-

“In the late seventies, environmentalists were among the first to question
why economic reasoning demanded exponential growth returns that the planet
could never sustain. We discovered that there was a severe lack of understanding
of the basic facts about money amongst laymen as well as professional economists.
Remarkably little research had been devoted to the questions of money creation and functioning.

Up to this day, it remains almost taboo to discuss it, both for economists and governments,
as if the global monetary system was a fundemental given.
However, nothing could be further from the truth.”

If we are running a money system that is designed to ruin itself,
we should not tacitly teach it in the schools under the heading of
managing mortgages, credit cards, running a bank account, etc.
as if “the monetary system was a fundemental given.”

I take your point about Bob Diamond & Co. not actually being in the classroom.
But if their ideas are promoted there, we’re not going to improve much.

Some information worthy of consideration?

“High-street banks have proven that they can’t be trusted to give appropriate investment advice…. the odds of customers being sold an unsuitable product or investment bond are unacceptably high Quote from Which? money 7/3/2011
Which? are providing “core funding” to Pfeg, alongside the Royal Bank of Scotland group and the British Bankers Association (representing all high street banks). Barclays are funding Pfeg funding forum events. Contradiction? Are they “independant” enough to educate teachers and children?

In September 2009, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) said, “financial education is a cornerstone of PSHE” at the same time as Pfeg were over halfway through their £15 million FSA (read: taxpayer) funded, FSA’s national strategy capability program for schools – then listed a PSHE framework in which “credit” didn’t get a single mention!
At this time the government-funded Personal Finance Education Group (Pfeg) suggested bringing in ‘volunteers’ from HSBC for financial education lessons in primary schools.
The Labour proposal discussion on credit management and personal finance being added to the national curriculum continued…
“…is employing the banks to teach kids about money a bit like getting Playboy to teach them about sex?”

I particularly noted the end piece, “Increasing and improving the provision of financial education would be a vote-winner as well as a powerful weapon against poverty: according to a YouGov poll for Insight Investment, 87 per cent of people felt financial literacy should be introduced as a compulsory topic to the school curriculum”
Polls and surveys, published years before the self proclaimed saving money expert’s epetition, showed a clear majority of the public in favour of some form of financial education, this was hardly a “campaign led by….” I’d wager good money that with the increased troubles for families with their finances, the popularity of this view would have increased.

“Make financial education compulsory; make it independent of the banks, and of anyone else who has an interest in getting young people into debt; and make it relevant to young people’s lives. Teach them about their rights when they sign a credit agreement. Teach them that no matter how many times the bank calls them, they need to pay their rent before they pay their credit card bill. Teach them about bailiffs.”

I’d go further and question would unenforceable bank charges be included in education?
Would a BBA funded body as the Pfeg is, advise teaching to take out small claims court action to recover their money or gain recompense for mis-selling PPI and other products?

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) was concerned with saving money in 2005 – the report led directly to the light touch, non inspection regulation that caused the near collapse of RBS – yet in 2006 it gave Pfeg £15 Million over 5 years (2006-2011) to implement the schools strand of it’s “National strategy for financial capability” across secondary schools.(Pfeg’s “learning money matters” intiative)
This was taxpayer funded during a time when the FSA were ignoring the RBS expansion which collapsed in chaos and had to be bailed out with £45 Billion of taxpayer’s money – as well as the run on Northern rock, which required emergency funding from the Bank of England, the FSA and the Treasury.
The DCSF were also funding Pfeg to the tune of £10 million from 2008 to 2011, for the “My money” educational programme (a key part of the financial capability action plan, launched by the Treasury and the FSA) that Pfeg and their partners implemented.

Then we have the Pfeg “What money means” project, supported by HSBC, designed to “change the way personal finance is taught in primary schools.”
This involved HSBC staff, “…supporting their local primary schools by adding value IN the classroom”
Haven’t HSBC top brass today apologised for money laundering?

Banks and a consumer group (Which?) are funding Pfeg in their aims of compulsary financial education from primary to leaving school.
Banks, government and the regulator (The FSA) have all funded Pfeg during the time when the UK has seen the biggest economic crash since the 1930’s depression.

Pfeg and Which? want me to support compulsary financial education for my child, which would involve financial industry staff training teachers and very possibly having bank staff going into classrooms, to teach my child about financial management?

BBC post this morning, that RBS, HSBC and JP Morgan are “still under investigation in the US, UK and Asia in connection with the rate-fixing scandal”

Barclays have admitted attempting to fix Libor rates and been fined already.
All these businesses give funding in some way to Pfeg to discuss educating or educate in our schools.

frances says:
25 July 2012

Thankyou ‘frugal ways’

I’m very disappointed in “Which”.
As for the rest – it comes as no surprise.

“It is well enough that people of the nation
do not understand our banking and monetary system,
for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”

(Henry Ford)

Independent Adviser says:
26 July 2012

I’m not certain about the delivery, but I understand the industry funded the founding of Pfeg including a levy to financial advisers (FSA fees) i.e. me.
I believe its a start to solving a genuine need in this countries educational demands/deficit.
I’m not saying as an industry professional I fully support the programme, but its far too early to tell whether it will improve children’s understanding long term.
In this modern world, they need to understand APR, compound interest, tax (basic), and some understanding of risk.
If it means kids don’t take out risky products that they don’t understand, insurance policies they don’t need, or ridiculous headline rates of interest but only when you pay in x for y months and the rate only applies to the first y pounds and its z thereafter or you get 0.1% I will be happy.
The misselling costs time and anguish, loses faith by consumers, and the rest of us pay the compensation (FSCS) as its funded by the advisers that remain.

If you have children in a secondary school and you aren’t happy with what’s happening, then please direct all your resources and efforts to working with your school.
Get on a parents committee, work with a quality independent financial adviser (soon to be renamed), and put together a programme you care about or ask for directed attention to certain areas.
The more involved we all are the better, as its the countries parents that will determine what government and schools do. Apparently, there is a rumour that schools must treat us as ‘customers’ so why not exploit this for good for a change.

Good luck!

The FSA’s report into banks selling packaged accounts – accounts with insurance for example – 1 in 5 of us have now – shows that banks haven’t been checking that the account customer is able to claim on the insurance they are paying for.
The FSA haven’t even checked the banks on this until this report and now they say they will act, but not until March 2013 – when they won’t exist?

The Pfeg have received millions in funding on past projects from the inept FSA, who I would say, have been implicit in the financial sector’s blatent disregard for the public, regulation and laws, at a time when custom was being diverted to the banks on the orders of the government.

In other news, Barclays, another contributor to Pfeg, is being investigated again.

Are financial institutions fit to be pulling the strings of financial training for teachers and in turn, our children?

HSBC is setting aside $2 BILLION after it’s very healthy 11% increase in profits, to cover possible money laundering fines in USA ($700 Million) and mis-selling PPI in the UK ($1.3 BILLION)

From my earlier post:
The Pfeg “What money means” project, supported by HSBC, designed to “change the way personal finance is taught in primary schools.”
This involved HSBC staff, “…supporting their local primary schools by adding value IN the classroom” [broken URL removed by moderator]

Are HSBC a fit and proper company to be involved in financial education of our children?

Which? moderator has edited my post to “remove a broken URL”

The url that linked to Pfeg’s “What money means” project, supported by HSBC, now links to an empty page?
Why has this information been removed by Pfeg?
In fact most of the “project links” are no longer working.
Instead HSBC’s involvement with Pfeg can be found here;

It is odd though, that the page only reports “from January 2012” and the previous years of the campaign – to use HSBC staff in primary school classrooms – has disappeared!
This from HSBC website,
“With HSBC’s business being directly related to the ability of consumers to generate and create wealth, it is both their business interest, as well as an important societal interest for them to seek to enhance educational opportunities within the communities in which they operate. It is for this reason that HSBC has, for many years, aimed to direct 50% of its voluntary community support on education.
Created in 2007 What Money Means is a partnership between HSBC and the charity Pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group). Following a HSBC commissioned report into the state of financial education in the UK it was highlighted that there was very little focus on this within primary schools. As a result the programme was developed to increase the curriculum provision for financial education in primary schools; raise the confidence and competence of those teaching it; and facilitate the involvement of external volunteers in the classroom to support teachers.
The programme seeks to embed personal finance education into existing curriculum work by encouraging creativity and enhancing existing work so as not to provide additional burden to teachers. It enables schools to use What Money Means resources within their own lessons as well as supporting 1100 HSBC employees to go into schools to support through volunteering.
HSBC through their partnership with Pfeg also work closely with Teacher Training organisations to embed financial education into the initial training of teachers, some 724 trainee teachers have had an experience of the What Money Means programme”

(source: http://www.bitc.org.uk/resources/case_studies/afe_3211.html)

That proud of HSBC going into classrooms since 2007 are Pfeg, that they remove information about it from their website?
How strange….

HSBC and Pfeg have strong links.
This from a recent online article;
“On Thursday, high in HSBC’s Canary Wharf offices, all three previous Chairmen – Daniel Godfrey, Ron Sandler and Otto Thoresen – paid tribute to Wendy van den Hende, the Personal Finance Education Group’s (Pfeg) first Chief Executive”

Far too cosy with banks to be involved in teaching our children.

Let’s try another approach then shall we…

Exactly what are our children learning from a bank funded “charity” providing staff and resources in schools?
Is there any place in this compulsary education for teaching about an individual’s rights?
If not, why not?
Most of what is considered “financial” education is already taught in maths lessons, percentages cover APRs for example.
It’s relevant to note that compulsary financial education would require permanent funding from taxpayers and banks, whom of course make their money from the same people, ie, taxpayers!

There’s been a noticeable shift in consumer group’s approach towards financial charges, since the test case – which tried to get a ruling on “fairness” – was thrown out at the supreme court.
The self proclaimed “expert” at saving money now openly discourages small claims cases being taken up, which?s “fixed means fixed” campaign and their official complaint to OFCOM, advocates the customer paying early termination fees.
Everything to help the consumer is now geared towards going through official channels like an ombudsman or a regulator, which in turn do nothing to redress the balance or hold big business to account, as they are not allowed to because of the Hampton principles stating “the needs of the business must be considered first” – the very same businesses that were consulted on the Hampton report that now ties the hands of those regulating them.

The problems today exist because of a watering down of an individual’s rights, yes by which? and consumer focus, also by self proclaimed expert in saving money, all getting too close to the regulators and businesses that are abusing their position for profits.
Pfeg’s various schemes will do nothing to stop this or educate about it.

What about teaching children that if a bank charges you £35 for going over your limit, then this needs to be proven by said bank, that it is their actual loss?
If the bank cannot prove this or chooses not to, then the £35 is deemed, in the eyes of the law/legal precedent, to be a “penalty charge” and as such unenforceable under common law in England and Wales.
From bank funded schemes via the Pfeg, this simply will not be done.

The arguments are not about “fairness” which can be viewed in any number of ways, are a sideline to detract from the rights of an individual.
Any party to a contract cannot make profit on a fee, charge, a clause, etc, contained within said contract, unless it is to recover “actual loss” incurred.

The onus is always placed on individuals these days, as if we are to blame for not reading contracts properly, when is it ever the business in the wrong?
I support Carol Vorderman’s approach, teach children the basics properly, then they can apply them to whatever scenario life throws at them.
It is little use teaching about APRs if the children cannot understand percentages is it?
Pfeg’s bank funded schemes are being used as marketing tools by the banks to appear to be doing something, in the case of compulsary education in schools, the banks are trying to catch our children young, to influence them.

With the bank’s track record, they shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a school, let alone have bank staff in the classroom!

Thank you Frugal Ways. You ask some very interesting questions, and from your many comments & links, are clearly well read & very concerned about this matter. I have some broader questions to add:

1. Who is responsible for teaching our children about finance? Parents/family? Schools? Consumer Groups? Society as a whole? If parents/family are unable/insufficiently knowledgeable to provide such guidance, is it so wrong to ask schools to provide a basic understanding of the value of savings, the dangers of debt, learning to be responsible for your own financial decision-making etc? Of course there must be safeguards where the education of the next generation are concerned, but isn’t this precisely the role of governors/school boards etc? Isn’t this precisely why we ALL need to get involved (particularly the better informed) to shape the way financial education should be taught in schools? How else would you propose we tackle this?
2. In addition to the question of individual rights, where does ‘ethical behaviour’ fit into this financial model? Is it any more unethical to sell un-repayable debt as it is to knowingly take on too much debt? Remember, our Capitalist system is only one of many systems of exchange. However, are there viable alternatives?
3. Finally, from experience, I can honestly say in principle, I don’t have an issue with banks having a presence in schools per se – as long as there are STRICT safeguards, of course. Back in the day, Midland Bank (as it was then called) even had an operational bank branch located inside my school. The maximum allowed in any transaction was £10. But Midland weren’t allowed to sell their products to anyone, only facilitate those who already had existing accounts. Volunteering there taught me a lot about the importance of clear book-keeping (to balance the books at the end of each banking day – no different to how we should be actively monitoring our finances), and avoiding credit card debts at all costs. I was so frightened of debt, I didn’t take out a credit card until after I’d graduated! Of course, that was just the beginning of my financial education & I have continued to read & learn about the sector for decades. My point is, having banks ‘involved’ isn’t necessarily a bad idea – but there must be clear, sensible safeguards i.e. just because banks, amongst other/Consumer organizations, may have an input into how teachers are ‘trained’ to teach personal finance, does not mean said teachers suddenly lose the ability to think for themselves & just trot out the marketing nonsense we hear all the time. Please give teachers some credit.

Interesting piece in the Independant today,

“We have to ensure that future generations have the confidence, skills and knowledge they need to cope with future economic crises and periods of recession,” says Tracey Bleakley, chief executive of the Personal Finance Education Group. “How do I set a monthly budget? How much of my salary should I be trying to put aside in savings? What can I do to protect myself against a loss of income? These are all questions that millions of people have been faced with over the last five years as the financial squeeze has taken hold.”

How much of my salary should I be trying to put aside in savings?
Will I have any of my salary left should be the question… savings? At the rates the banks are offering?
Still the banks funding the Pfeg will appreciate talking about savings.

What can I do to protect myself against a loss of income?
Take out insurance by any chance?
That will appease the Association of British Insurers (ABI) who also give funding to Pfeg.

The article continues…
“High-quality financial education from a young age would have put squeezed Britons in a much better position to be able to make the right choices.”
It wouldn’t have saved a single job, it wouldn’t have fended off cuts to services and benefits, it wouldn’t have stopped the mis-selling and market manipulation by the financial sector, etc.
It certainly wouldn’t have equipped the individual with the knowledge of their rights to get redress either!

Kate Hughes who wrote the article said, “With rogue banks and the economy flat at best, it’s clear that self preservation is the only way out. But to save ourselves, we need to know what we’re doing”
We do need to know what we are doing, but the more consumer groups and regulators cosey up to the big financial players, the more watered down our rights become.
These “rogue” banks (as Kate puts it in the article) are some of the same banks that are funding Pfeg and want compulsory financial education in our schools, that they are involved with.
(Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/money/spend-save/kate-hughes-legacy-lessons-still-have-not-been-learned-8031973.html)

Totally agree with your point about the right to redress!

the whole economy is based on loser’s.

so no government is going to educate them.