Smart money isn't on period 6

9th April 2004 at 01:00
It would be like "going to hell on a handcart" to try to introduce financial education through discrete slots in the timetable, the chief executive of Learning and Teaching Scotland cautioned last week.

There was no prospect of allocating "period 6 on a Tuesday afternoon" for learning about handling money, budgeting and saving, Mike Baughan told a conference on financial education, organised jointly with the Stewart Ivory Foundation, which is promoting awareness among senior pupils.

Mr Baughan said LT Scotland and Scottish Executive ministers were right behind better understanding about money matters but it was best left to teachers to introduce elements of financial education where they thought best.

There were many natural contexts - in core skills, education for work and enterprise, citizenship or personal and social development. LT Scotland is publishing a new resource for S1-S2, Talk Money, Talk Maths. "The last thing the curriculum needs is more content loaded into it," Mr Baughan said.

He insisted that learning about money was vital. "Kids are telling us quite bluntly that they do not get these opportunities in schools. To make the assumption that this is something that is self-learnt or caught within the family really disadvantages vast numbers of youngsters.

"If we are genuinely to talk about an inclusive society, every youngster has to develop the type of competence we are describing."

Half of school-leavers went on to higher education and many ran up debts of up to pound;20,000, he said.

Dan Wood, a financial education officer for the Highlands and the north-east, who has been working with senior pupils on debt and credit, budgeting and saving and investment, said that newspapers and magazines were filled every day with stories about finance and how things can go wrong.

"Students are keen to know and understand the financial support available to them when they leave school for university or college and most know very little about financial control and management. I asked one lad how much he would need to survive at college or university and he said about pound;10 a week," Mr Wood said.

Ron Sandler, a London-based financier and chairman of the Personal Finance Education Group (pfeg), said: "This is not about product knowledge or teaching students about pensions but imparting the ability to question, probe and analyse. The main challenge is to encourage the development of financial acumen and a sceptical approach and then make reasoned decisions."

Mr Sandler added: "It is often said that 50 per cent of the people in this country do not know what 50 per cent means."

A major aim of the programmes offered by the "pfeg" initiative is to increase the confidence of teachers in personal finance. South of the border, research by Brunel University into the work of 300 schools showed that teachers were more confident about personal spending and methods of payments but less sure about tax or the role of financial institutions.

Jim Lally, of LT Scotland's financial education centre, said the first two years of secondary were fertile ground for pushing programmes. Business education was taken by one in five pupils. Everyone did maths.

Inspectors were now asking questions about financial education and demanding to see the financial aspects of PSE work in S5 and S6.

Ray Perman, an adviser to ministers on enterprise in schools, questioned the focus on numeracy in S1 and S2. "Numeracy for what? Unless you are a professional darts player, the area where you need numeracy is in financial affairs," Mr Perman said.

leader 16

TALK TEXT, TALK MATHS

* Kevin has a pay as you go mobile phone. He buys a pound;10 voucher.

* He makes 20 text messages at 10p per message

* He uses his phone for 30 minutes off-peak at 10p per minute

* He uses his phone for 10 minutes peak rate at 30p per minute

* How much money is left on his voucher?

Sample from LT Scotland's new resource for S1-S2 pupils, Talk Money, Talk Maths

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