Personal finance starts here - -in the primary classroom

Pupils as young as 10 are being issued with mock cheques and credit cards by the Financial Services Agency as part of a project to raise awareness of non-cash forms of money among the young.

Colossal Cards - from football season tickets to premium bonds to money-off vouchers - are helping pupils to understand savings and spending. There is also Mega Money for primary pupils and Make the Most of It!, a package aimed at 14 to 19-year-olds designed to give young people the confidence and know-how they need to look after their futures.

The package is broken up into modules that can be taught within the personal, social and health education (PSHE) framework as well as citizenship, which becomes a statutory part of the national curriculum from September.

It also includes Worth the Risk, which examines the role of risk assessment in the context of credit and debit cards, while Covered for Life? looks at insurance and the implications of genetics.

Deborah Arnott, head of consumer education at the FSA, says: "Our resources focus on understanding personal finance but don't promote specific products."

An FSA survey showed that 84 per cent of primary schools and 89 per cent of secondaries are already covering this area, although pupils only get lessons once or twice a term.

In primaries, where teachers cover the whole curriculum, it is easier to teach finance across a range of lessons, but in secondaries the subject often has to compete for a timetable slot.

Ms Arnott says that teachers often lack confidence to teach the subject, so the resource packs also include guidance for teachers.

More focus on real-world life skills is in the wings, so the agencyis aware of the pressure on time that could develop.The Davies review has outlined three complementary approaches needed to deliver enterprise learning, but without "elbowing out" other parts of the curriculum. First, work experience should be re-focused to include enterprise skills. Second, there should be an integrated approach through citizenship or through building financial literacy into the numeracy strategy. And third, part of the responsibility will be in the hands of education-business partnerships and those who make the links between the two sectors.

"Learn on line", the agency's adult learning line, covers pensions, borrowing and financial planning, and is used in some FE colleges to help teach key skills. It is hoped that teaching basic economics will help young people to become financially literate consumers. There are more than 4,000 mortgage deals on offer, for example.

The Chancellor ,Gordon Brown, was keen to see financial literacy included in the Davies review, not least because social exclusion incorporates financial exclusion. On the other hand, poorer children tend to have much better budgeting skills and a much keener sense of the cost of living than their middle-class counterparts, according to FSA research, even though they had limited experience of financial services and institutions.

Children from white middle-class families might understand how "plastic" money works, but they often have little grasp of basic money skills such as budgeting and saving.

Colossal Cards could help teachers to level the financial playing field as children start to get to grips with the basics of financial transactions in the classroom - with the added bonus of not running up any debts. And if these lessons in personal finance pay off, pupils might avoid debt as grown-ups too.

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