Financial specialists feel overlooked for new classes

23rd January 2009 at 00:00
Business teachers object to economic wellbeing lessons being labelled PSHE, while their expertise goes untapped

Plans to teach every pupil how to cope with turbulent financial times will not be a success unless experts are allowed to teach the lessons, specialist teachers have warned.

The decision to allow non-specialists to handle the introduction of "economic wellbeing" classes has been criticised by economics and business studies teachers, who are now lobbying the Government to change its mind.

Members of the Economics, Business and Enterprise Association (EBEA) are angry at not being given funding to develop materials for the lessons, which will form part of personal, social and health education classes and add an extra E to PSHE. Instead, the money went to the PSHE Association.

Economics and business studies teachers have said this is a misuse of their expertise, and are concerned that the lessons will not be as stimulating as they might be.

Jacek Brant, chairman of the EBEA and a senior lecturer at London University's Institute of Education, said: "We think it's wrong for others to develop materials in this particular sphere when there are lots of specialist teachers committed to helping produce resources."

Duncan Cullimore, chief executive of the association, which has been making its objections known to the Department for Children, Schools and Families, said: "I think the home for economic wellbeing is not with PSHE. There are clearly links between personal finance and personal wellbeing, but economic wellbeing has its roots in the outside world.

"It is also a big area of teaching work in itself. It includes careers education and how markets work and how the economic world works. It is stretching PSHE to breaking point to expect the subject to take in this extra content.

He added that labelling economic wellbeing as PSHE had tended to steer economics specialists away from it. "They are an underused resource in the majority of schools in so far as the development of economic wellbeing classes is concerned. If they were given the time and some materials, they could make a big difference.

Comparing the teaching of economic wellbeing and the better-established study of financial capability, he said: "There are currently far more DCSF resources for developing financial capability than economic wellbeing. This is bound to help the teaching of financial capability, but economic wellbeing needs the funding as well. It's a new subject that did not exist until this academic year, and few people understand either what it is or how to teach it.

"Furthermore, the teaching of financial capability without economic or business understanding leads to superficial learning of the former."

The Prime Minister is keen to make every child financially literate. Mr Cullimore is confident the dispute will be resolved. He said: "Schools are finding it hard to make a case that business and economics teachers should teach economic wellbeing. But we think it's important that those with an understanding should be asked how to develop the subject."

But Sarah Smart, chief executive of the PSHE Association, said economics and business studies teachers had been part of advisory groups for the subject.

"Although funding was given to the PSHE Association, our strategy has been to work in partnership with subject experts to create the best possible resources and the best support for teachers," she said.

The EBEA is keen to emphasise its argument is with the Government, not the PSHE Association. Members have been giving their views to the Rose review on how economic wellbeing could be taught in primary schools.

And it has received government funding for other training schemes, such as a programme to support the teaching of economic wellbeing which it developed in conjunction with the PSHE Association, the Personal Finance Education Group and the Association for Careers Education and Guidance. The programme, co-ordinated by the CfBT education trust, began in September and finishes in April, but has been trialled in only a few schools.

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