The case for universal financial education in the UK

By Michael Anderson posted 30 days ago

In April 2024, the Social Market Foundation released a report exploring financial literacy among young people in the UK, titled 'Investing in the future: The case for universal financial education in the UK'. 
It highlighted that Britain has one of the lowest rates of financial literacy in the OECD. Adults were asked seven financial knowledge questions, with only 47% scoring five or more out of seven, compared to the OECD average of 62%. To help improve this, the report recommended that financial education should be introduced at a younger age, as it found that only 1% of primary school teachers believe that their pupils possess adequate financial skills. The report also noted that the “attitudes and behaviours towards money that follow young people into adulthood are already present at age seven, and socioeconomic inequalities in financial understanding can be seen at age 11”. 
The key recommendation is that financial education should be integrated into the English primary school curriculum and taught across subjects using a ‘whole school approach’. To help implement this, the Department for Education and Ofsted should set financial literacy as a priority area for schools, and trainee teachers should be given additional support to deliver financial education. The report also recommended that the government should support the Money and Pensions Service to develop a financial literacy data strategy. 
As a secondary mathematics teacher and former head of PSHCE, I know that financial education is already a part of the English secondary school curriculum, but it can be patchy. The report states that that the majority of young people wish that they learnt more about money and finance at school. 
So how can this be improved? 
One suggestion is through mathematics lessons. In Northern Ireland, financial education is primarily delivered via the mathematics curriculum, where some content is taught through a financial lens. The report found that 87% of maths teachers feel very or somewhat confident teaching financial education, so to place financial education within the mathematics curriculum can make sense. The report also highlights that many young children can struggle to see the relevance of mathematics and a richer curriculum could help 'bring maths to life for some learners.  
However, despite this, a related Teacher Tapp survey showed that primary and secondary teachers and school leaders believe that financial education should be taught in PSHE:
Interviewees in the report believed that in order to be financially literate, you need “not only basic numeracy but also broader skills development – understanding needs versus wants, understanding socioeconomic differences, being able to not just write a budget but stick to one, etc.” Additionally, some students who dislike mathematics may not engage with financial education if it is taught only within mathematics curriculum content.  
The report recommended that “if financial education is integrated into the primary curriculum that this does not only, or predominantly, sit within maths. Although this may be the easiest pathway logistically, it likely contributes to constrained success elsewhere, such as in English secondary schools.” 
The report concluded that “Embedding financial education into the primary school curriculum is the most effective method of delivering it at scale, but this is just a first step. A lack of time, resources, low prioritisation and lack of expertise all need to be overcome.” 
How do you currently incorporate financial education within your setting? What changes would you like to see? Join the discussion here!
Did you enjoy this blog? Hit 'like' at the top!