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Last Updated: Friday, 11 July, 2003, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Pupils learn to count the cost
By Shola Adenekan

It is basic economics: the demands for lessons on money management by school pupils outweigh the supply of courses available.

Stantonbury College students
Stantonbury College is pioneering a new qualification
A Mori survey of teenagers revealed that when asked what they needed to learn more about in schools, money management came top of the list, even ahead of sex.

While the government has yet to make it a compulsory part of the national curriculum, financial organisations believe it is never too soon to start learning about money management.

"There is no doubt that, as a nation, we need to improve the financial literacy of our children in a big way," says Howard Davies, chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) - the independent body that regulates the industry in the UK.

"One side-effect of growing student indebtedness is that many young people need to understand financial products at a much earlier age than before.

"There is a thirst for knowledge about money and business among young people which can be harnessed."

Avoiding problems

Wendy van den Hende, the chief executive of Personal Finance Education Group, agrees.

"Acquiring personal finance at an early age can help young people avoid the difficulties experienced through, for example, over-indebtedness, and also enable them to participate enjoyably in society."

student workbook
Students say they want more information
The list goes on: pension management, Isas, mortgage endowments, ethical investing, understanding credit and managing debt.

Before young people finish their education and enter the world of work they must be ready to manage their financial affairs, but such economic lessons are rare.

Recent studies show 98% of teenagers consider it valuable for the future to learn about managing their money and 89% would like to do so at school.

With many schools fighting budget cuts, teachers say they are up against their own supply and demand dilemma. Many pupils want money management training but there are only few teachers equipped to teach them.

Banks go in

In order to help pupils satisfy their craving for financial knowledge, financial institutions have taken their skills to schools across the country.

High street bank Natwest now runs a programme that teach pupils personal money management and enterprise skills within the curriculum.

Kelvin Curry, director of Natwest/Royal Bank of Scotland's financial capability centre, says the bank's Face to Face Finance training offers students the chance to get experience of setting up a business, raising finance, producing a business plan and developing a product.

"They can also learn the basics of personal management," he says. "From choosing the best type of account for their needs to the most cost-effective way of borrowing money."

A third of a million students have taken part in the programme which has so far reached over half of UK schools, and almost 5,000 of the bank's staff have been involved.

New qualification

Poor financial literacy is estimated to cost UK Plc 2% of its gross domestic product and the push to embed money management into the national curriculum is getting stronger.

From next September a new AS-level in financial studies is on offer. Launched by the Institute of Financial Services (IFS) with support from the FSA and the Personal Financial Education Group, the new subject aims to address the poor levels of financial awareness in the country and equip young people to make confident choices about their financial futures.

The syllabus is divided into three parts taught in a series of modules - why money matters, risk and reward and making financial judgements.

The certificate is expected to carry Ucas points that will enable entry into university as well as being a qualification for a career in financial services.

Raised awareness

What do teachers and pupils think of financial institutions coming in to teach them about financial intricacies?

Stantonbury College in Milton Keynes pioneered the new AS-level. Joe Cowell, its head of sixth form, says the IFS-sponsored scheme has not only raised levels of financial literacy, it has engendered greater links with the financial industry.

"Abbey National has been in to support specific areas of students' learning and both IFS and Abbey National accompany our staff and students on a week residential to Longrigg, on the edge of the Lake District, where they focus on the team and personal development module."

Tirtsirai Caroline Jewa, a pupil at Stantonbury, said: "I am studying geography and business studies and I do not consider pursuing a career in financial services, as my desire is to obtain a diploma in nursing and midwifery.

"However, I have learned valuable information about financial services."




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