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Counting on arithmetic

The return of arithmetic as an examinable subject holds the key to improving pupils' understanding of money, according to a leading campaigner for financial education.

Drew Livingstone, a retired secondary head who promotes financial education in schools, told a seminar last week that arithmetic used to be not only a good vehicle for extending literacy and numeracy, but also for learning about finance.

But Louise Macdonald of Young Scot cautioned that not all education took place in schools and the informal sector was just as important, particularly when many young people would "run a mile" if told they were going to have a session on financial capability "which is why I have reservations about it being a compulsory part of the curriculum".

It should be built in as part of a "life skills" programme, so young people can see its relevance, she said.

The seminar was run by the David Hume Institute and sponsored by the Stewart Ivory Foundation, which funds financial education projects with young people. It heard from Dame Deirdre Hutton, deputy chair of the Financial Services Authority, which is funding two posts at the Scottish Centre for Financial Education and will support another from next April.

Dame Deirdre said there was "widespread recognition that financial education is a priority issue to help people of all ages take control of their financial lives".

A survey of 1,000 14 to 18-year-olds found that 50 per cent of them expected to be in debt by the time they were 17 and a further 26 per cent thought that using credit cards and overdrafts was a sensible way of extending their spending power.

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