Julian Wright, Head of Education Expansion at RedSTART, writes about the need for financial literacy teaching if we are to become a money-savvy society…
Rarely a week goes by when a story appears in the news detailing one of the many ways we as a nation are in some way personally in debt. Whether this is the spiralling costs of housing, the amount of debt students are leaving university with, or the amount sitting unpaid on our maxed out credit cards.
The general message seems to be that as citizens of the UK, we do not understand how money works and our financial literacy is poor at best, and non-existent at worst.
However, despite these constant warnings about the damage to the UK economy, and individual lives, this ‘financial ignorance’ causes, there still seems no appetite to rectify this. Despite calls from various charities, financial education remains all-but absent from the national curriculum.
One of those charities is RedSTART, an organisation committed to providing key financial education to young pupils in schools. Their focus is on primary schools, as it is generally recognised that children develop their saving and spending habits early on – by the age of seven.
Although financial education is not on the primary school curriculum, this doesn’t prevent teachers from integrating it into existing lessons. The bitesize ‘Money Matters’ lesson plans provided by RedSTART integrate a lot of the PSHE curriculum into its topics, allowing teachers to deliver key financial understanding as part of the school day. However this also doesn’t need to be limited to these sessions.
By understanding the key elements that underpin financial literacy, teachers can contextualise and adapt existing curriculum items to deliver the same message. For example, it is a statutory requirement within the year 5 programme of study within the maths curriculum that pupils ‘recognise the percent symbol (%) and understand that percent relates to ‘number of parts per hundred’.
When teaching this and other elements of percentages, there is no reason this cannot be contextualised to show how interest rates work. If you had a savings account that paid 5% interest per year (we wish!), and you had £500 in that account, how much interest would you earn in a year? Alternatively: If you had a credit card that charged 5% interest per month and you had a debt of £1000 on your card, how much interest would you pay in a month?
And having introduced the concept of ‘interest’ as a percentage, it is only one very important step to teaching ‘compound interest’ – “He who understands it earns it, he who doesn’t pays it” (Albert Einstein).
Opportunities to contextualise financial literacy are available throughout the curriculum, once the key concepts such as risk, reward, borrowing, lending, budgeting, goal setting and of course, compound interest have been taught.
If pupils aren’t learning financial literacy in the home then the classroom is the most appropriate place to break that cycle.