APPG forces financial education up the agenda – but provision is a different story

Written by , July 2, 2011

Our CEO, Lily Lapenna, welcomes news that over 200 MPs are pushing for compulsory financial...

Our CEO, Lily Lapenna, welcomes news that over 200 MPs are pushing for compulsory financial education in the UK, but warns that delivering the goods may be tougher than first imagined.

Last week’s launch of an All Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education is fantastic news for all of us involved in the provision of arming youths with the skills, knowledge and confidence to deal with money effectively.

The case for creating a money savvy society is overwhelming. A 2005 study by Australia’s Commonwealth Bank showed boosting financial literacy among just 10 per cent of thei population would increase its GDP by $6 billion, and create 16,000 new jobs.

However, whilst MyBnk supports the call for compulsory financial education, our experience suggests that providing high quality provision is much more difficult.

Most schools want to provide financial education, but lack expertise and time to deliver this effectively. New research from Sheffield Hallam University suggests economic literacy is seldom given the same priority or prominence and viewed separate from Personal Social Health & Economic education.

FSA studies show that whilst the vast majority think they should provide financial education, only one third of teachers tasked with delivering it feel confident in doing so. This is more so in the case of youth workers and those supporting vulnerable young people.

Alongside budgetary constraints, the government’s sharp shift in focus towards the core five subjects means there is even less space for PSHE and unless the criteria for what constitutes a failing school changes, I fear compulsory financial education lessons are a long way off.

We do not have to reinvent the wheel. Rather than training masses of teachers, building a new syllabus and expending sparse resources, we can focus on small, dedicated and versatile groups of experts. At MyBnk our specially trained educators can visit several schools and youth groups in one day, teaching various stages of personal finance development to wide-ranging age groups, embedding financial and enterprise education into these organisations and reaching tens of thousands of young people across London and the South-East.

As a result, last year we saw an 62% increase in youths saving regularly for the first time, 89% of young people told us they felt more confident about dealing with money and 79% of participants aspired to avoid getting into unsustainable debt by saving regularly.

Our approach allows us to be cross-curricular, delivering sessions tailor-made to slot into other subjects like Maths, Business Studies and Citizenship. It also takes us beyond the classroom, into areas mainstream education struggles to reach – such as youths leaving social care, the vulnerably housed, women’s refuges, pupil referral centres, NEETs and ex-offenders.

Everything is youth-led; it is learning by doing, rather than a theory-based experience, restricted to the classroom. In this way, we are working to create an all-round generational shift in attitudes towards money. Young people are at the heart of programme development; our Youth Advisory Panel help us ensure what we’re doing is relevant and engaging.

Let’s talk about enterprise

One of the frailties of our current economic situation is job creation and in the APPG we have an opportunity to talk more about the role of enterprise in schooling. Having a financially literate society may help us make the right decisions as consumers, but it does little to foster an entrepreneurial attitude to life – it is wise to remember, many of the jobs that our children will have, do not yet exist. Through our youth-led, interest-free microfinance schemes we are able to break down the barriers to youths becoming their own boss and run their own businesses, providing them with their first enterprise experience.

The motives behind forming one of parliament’s largest ever APPGs are solid and I share them wholeheartedly. It pushes an essential life lesson to the top of the education agenda and allows us to talk seriously about addressing one of the giant gaps in how we prepare our young people for adult life.

I would like to thank Justin Tomlinson and all the MPs who have signed up to advance the cause of financial literacy so finally we can break the debt cycle and avoid the mistakes of the past. I look forward to discussing how we can implement this agenda to build a new, confident, enterprising society.