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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 September 2006, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Call for better money skills
By Bob Howard
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

Children in a classroom
School children will be taught some personal finance from 2008
The government should introduce personal finance as a stand-alone subject in secondary schools, according to a leading educational charity.

The Institute of Financial Services (IFS) said recent research which showed British people were the most indebted in Western Europe supports this view.

The government is due to introduce more personal finance into the curriculum in England in 2008 as part of a new subject called Functional Maths.

But the IFS said the new course will not be sufficient to teach pupils the rudiments of looking after their money.

Sue Georgious from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) which is developing the course, said Functional Maths will help to plug this gap in pupils' knowledge.

"Functional Maths is about the application of mathematical skill in real life contexts, to compare one credit card with another, to look at what your student loan may mean in terms of debt," she told BBC Radio 4's Money Box.

We believe it should be a stand-alone subject in the GCSE 14-16 year-old space
Gavin Shreeve, IFS
But Gavin Shreeve from the IFS said the personal finance element of the course will only account for seven and half hours over two years.

Mr Shreeve said the content is not relevant enough and only a dedicated course will make a difference: "There is actually virtually nothing in that curriculum to do with personal finance," he said.

"We believe it should be a stand-alone subject in the GCSE 14-16 year-old space."

However, the QCA said pupils will learn about personal finance and people should wait for the pilots before they judge the new course.

Personal finance has been in the English national curriculum for six years. It is not compulsory and is part of the subject known as Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE).

It includes a wide variety of subjects and not all teachers have felt comfortable doing the personal finance element.

In the meantime the Financial Services Authority and the Personal Finance Education Group are also planning to help 4,000 schools in England to devise new ways of getting personal finance into existing subject areas.

Hill View School for Girls in Tonbridge, Kent, is hoping to raise the number of hours it devotes to the subject from two to 30 each year.

Maureen Jackson, an independent educational consultant, has been visiting the school as part of the FSA's Learning Money Matters Campaign.

She told the programme: "It's about refocusing when they're doing percentages or perhaps in ICT using a spreadsheet and using that as a tool for managing your finances. Otherwise there just isn't room in a very crowded curriculum."

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 30 September 2006 at 1204 BST and was repeated on Sunday, 1 October 2006 at 2102 BST.

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