Lawrence Gosling, group editorial director at Incisive Media, reflects on a plan to teach finance in schools.
So personal finance is going to come onto the National Curriculum and be taught in schools. I am not sure whether to dance with joy or shrug my shoulders at the pointlessness of it all.
For years I have been arguing that more needs to be done in schools, which has been largely limited to the Personal Finance Education Group (PFEG) charity. The PFEG is well-meaning but ineffectual and starts with the major handicap of being funded by the industry.
In league with a zealot?
I find myself confused on the broader issue because Martin Lewis, he of website MoneySavingExpert fame and now fortune, has been banging on about putting personal finance onto the curriculum for years. Sharing a platform with the great consumer zealot himself is never a comfortable position.
Comment: School for thought
Lewis’ default starting point is that every provider is out to rip every consumer off, which may be how it feels if you are looking at your utility or mobile phone bills, but sadly he carries this on to basic savings and investment, and that helps no-one, least of all the uninformed consumer.
That is okay because, in a few years’ time, our next generation of consumers coming out of schools will be able to get an ‘ology’ in personal finance. PFology. I am not sure about that; who is going to teach it? The maths teacher? Philosophy teacher? Is it worth advisers volunteering to pitch up and teach some lessons or do after-school clubs? Once you have done your CRB check and had it implied you might be a threat to children, then it probably is not worth the aggro.
So the poor teachers will be left to do it, in-between trying to get kids through all the other curriculum changes Michael Gove comes up with.
He wants to focus on the heroes of history – what does that mean for finance? Will kids learn about the heroes of investment – George Soros, Anthony Bolton or Neil Woodford? Or just the villains – Bernie Madoff or one of the LIBOR riggers?
I have a simple solution to funding this: the government should fund the Citizens Advice Bureau to a proper level, or the industry could stump up the rest to meet the gap.
We do not need a GCSE in personal finance – a bit of common sense would go a long way instead.
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