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Delivering effective financial education – Education Committee publishes report

Ten years after financial education was added to the national curriculum, a new Education Committee report calls on the Government to bolster the subject in primary and secondary schools and at post-16 level. 

Widely supported by politicians of all parties, as well as financial institutions, academics, trade unions and campaigners such as broadcaster Martin Lewis, financial education gives pupils knowledge to make decisions with their money. It can cover a wide range of skills from reading a payslip, understanding the impact of money on relationships, awareness of online scams and judging financial risks. 

The cross-party Committee’s report makes recommendations to the Department for Education (DfE) on: expanding financial education at primary school level; encouraging schools to appoint financial education coordinators; improving access to quality learning materials; and how the subject could become a key component of the Government’s proposal for all 16-18-year-olds to study maths. 

Financial education has formally been part of the national curriculum since 2014, meaning it is required to be taught in local authority-run schools as part of the maths curriculum at primary and secondary level, and through citizenship studies from ages 11-16. Schools also have the option to include it in personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE). The Committee heard that many schools find it hard to prioritise areas of financial education beyond basic concepts such as calculations using money and that despite it having been part of the curriculum for over a decade, many teachers lack confidence in delivering its content.  

Chair's comment

Education Committee Chair Robin Walker MP said: 

“Evidence we received was unanimous on two central points. Providing children with a financial education that is comprehensive and age appropriate is essential. Secondly, a decade since it was introduced with broad support, financial education in England needs an urgent update that takes account of how the schools sector, financial pressures on children and consumer habits have changed. There is cross-party support for delivering financial education in schools but it hasn't yet reached its full potential. 

“Since the Prime Minister set out his ambitions for ‘maths to 18’, there is an opportunity to bolster financial education and embed it in the maths curriculum, both as a core part of the proposals for the Advanced British Standard, and as a more accessible, practical alternative for those who wouldn’t choose the equivalent of a maths A level. The period just before students enter the world of work and face key decisions around student debt and accommodation is a vital one for financial education but currently a space where there is no requirement for it. 

“We also heard a strong backing case for starting financial education at primary school when pupils start to understand the concepts of managing money, and because young children need educating about the financial risks and pressures they are being exposed to online from an early age. 

“There is a compelling case for including different elements of financial education across citizenship, PSHE and maths in secondary school, owing to its relevance in so many facets of our lives. But schools also need support to deliver it effectively. That’s why we recommend that schools appoint a financial education coordinator to ensure coherence across the three subjects. DfE should provide guidance to help schools navigate the patchwork of educational materials to choose from, and there needs to be enhanced training for new teachers and their senior colleagues, including career development opportunities. 

“The Government should take pride in having introduced financial education into the national curriculum, and with that in mind, we recommend that England and each of the devolved administrations should take part in the PISA surveys on financial education going forward so we can benchmark our performance in such an important area against our peers.” 

Financial Education ‘should begin early’ 

Experts told the Committee that effective financial education should begin early to adequately prepare children for the fast-changing financial world in which they increasingly participate. 

Through the Committee’s screen time inquiry we have heard that young children are increasingly being exposed to apps that require subscriptions, financial pressures and adverts for get rich quick schemes. MPs conclude that building a strong foundation for financial education at primary school would also ensure that, as children develop their cognitive abilities and a sense of delayed gratification, they will do so informed by good financial practice. 

Financial education in the maths curriculum 

A 2023 survey of 4,000 young adults by Compare the Market and MyBnk found that 61% had no memory of receiving financial education in secondary school. Martin Lewis told the Committee that campaigns to get financial education onto the national curriculum in secondary schools proved to be a “pyrrhic victory”. He said its inclusion in the national curriculum lost relevance as free schools and academies don’t have to follow it, and criticised a lack of appropriate resources. 

The report recommends the Government urgently reviews the contents of the maths curriculum from primary to GCSEs to expand the provision and relevance of financial education at primary and secondary levels. This need not require a re-drawing of the national curriculum as a whole but could be achieved through enriching maths with financial knowledge. This must happen to ensure young people at every level are developing financial literacy as a fundamental part of their mathematical knowledge and fluency. 

Post-16 financial education 

In April 2023, the Prime Minister outlined proposals for all 16-18 year-olds to study a form of maths. These proposals, currently under consultation, entail replacing A levels with a baccalaureate-style Advanced British Standard. 

The majority of students in that age bracket currently do not study maths. The report recommends that financial education must be included in any plans for compulsory maths to 18 as a fundamental part of the curriculum. However, given current struggles to recruit and retain specialist maths teachers, DfE should redouble its focus on this if its ambitions are to be met. Further recommendations on teacher recruitment retention were made in the Committee’s recent report on the subject

DfE should explore means of increasing the take up of core mathematics and functional skills courses, as a more accessible form of post-16 maths study. It should also consider opportunities for a specific qualification in financial literacy which could fit into the Advanced British Standard as a minor subject, and allow for opportunities for progression for students who may not be able to take A level maths but show an interest or aptitude in improving their financial knowledge.  

Financial education in PSHE and citizenship 

In the non-statutory citizenship curriculum at key stages 1 and 2, pupils learn that money comes from different sources and can be used for different purposes. When citizenship becomes a statutory subject at key stages 3 and 4, pupils learn the functions and uses of money, the importance and practice of budgeting and managing risk.  

Schools can teach additional financial education content in PSHE if they wish. But unlike the PSHE content on relationships, sex and health, financial education is not a statutory element of PSHE at any key stage. 

However, recent changes to aspects of PSHE education provide the Government with a legislative mechanism to expand financial education. Section 35 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring schools in England to teach other aspects of PSHE education. The report urges the Secretary of State to make regulations using powers under section 35 of the Act, to provide for the personal and societal elements of financial education to be taught compulsorily in schools. 

Coordinating of financial education across subjects 

A cross-curricular approach in which aspects of financial education are taught in various subjects helps pupils to understand its relevance in different contexts, MPs conclude. To ensure coherence across the subjects, MPs also recommend that each school or Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) should consider having a financial education lead, who may be a teacher of maths, PSHE or citizenship, to coordinate financial education across the school curriculum.  

The Government should produce detailed guidance for MATs, teachers and school leaders on how best to appoint and support financial education leads. It should also consider the case for providing subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) and continuing professional development (CPD) to support such a role.  

Improved teaching materials 

We have heard that one of the main obstacles facing teachers of financial education is the availability of suitable teaching resources which can be accessible to different learners. Committee members were also concerned about the suitability of banks or other private organisations with a vested interest providing schools with financial education resources. 

Working with subject associations, professional bodies, the Money and Pensions Service, and other government departments, DfE should curate and promote a selection of high-quality financial education teaching materials and make these easily accessible to teachers and pupils. 

Teacher training and professional development 

Access to training and development would improve teachers’ confidence and proficiency to deliver financial education. But a 2023 Ofsted survey of teachers found that 87% saw "workload pressures" as the biggest obstacle to career development. 73% said "availability of staff to cover my lessons". 

DfE should ensure training in financial education is available to all teachers beginning their careers through initial teacher training provision, and that continued professional development opportunities and subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) in financial education are available and accessible for all teachers. The Department should ensure appropriate financial education options are included in both the Early Career Framework and national professional qualification (NPQ) courses. 

Ofsted’s role in evaluating teaching of financial education 

When Ofsted assesses a school under the judgement heading of ‘quality of education’, it examines the delivery of maths, but not citizenship, which is instead inspected under ‘personal development’. This means that the substantial proportion of financial education taught in citizenship is not scrutinised to the same rigorous level as maths. 

DfE should work with Ofsted to review how it can improve its evaluation of financial education. We recommend that citizenship provision be inspected under the 'quality of education’ key judgement and personal development. 

PISA financial literacy assessment 

UK nations do not participate in the OECD's PISA assessments for financial education. Schools Minister Damian Hinds told us this was to reduce the burden on teachers and because participation in the maths section of PISA was sufficient.  

The Committee does not agree that outcomes for maths education necessarily reflect performance in financial education. Participating in the financial literacy assessment would demonstrate the Government’s commitment to improving financial education in England and give the subject more prominence. We recommend that the Government applies to participate in the next PISA financial literacy assessment scheduled for 2025 and engage with the devolved administrations to encourage them to do likewise. 

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