In 2014, financial literacy became part of the National Curriculum in England for the first time, with the intention of enabling young people to leave school having acquired an understanding of the skills needed for personal finance. However, it can be a difficult subject to teach and learn – and while I commend it becoming a curriculum requirement, I still believe not enough is being done to help teachers pass on the relevant knowledge.
So, I think it is worth considering what is beyond curriculum necessities, and looking to expand lessons to maximise impact and make young people look at financial literacy as a way of life rather than a subject taught in school. Here are three simple things that all teachers (and parents) can think about doing to help prepare young people to manage their own finances well.
1. Practise reading simple financial documents
Be it applying for a student loan, setting up a bank account to pay in your first month’s salary or settling bills, financial documents are a core part of life and many young people face these for the first time completely blind.
Practical guidance on reading financial documents is something I believe greatly helps prepare young people for what is ahead of them.
One way to teach this could be to create an income and expenses sheet alongside example bills, rent, salaries and shopping receipts, and ask pupils to input them into the appropriate section. This gives practical experience in a safe and controlled environment before they are required to deal with real situations.
2. Plan and manage a basic budget
Discussing the difference between wants and needs, and how to decide on and reach a savings goal through planning and managing a basic budget, is another method you could consider when explaining the importance of managing money with young people.
For example, ask young people to plan saving for a holiday, a new phone or a car. Following on from the income and expenses task you could provide a time frame and savings goal and ask the students to work out how much money they would be required to save per month to reach their target amount. This task would involve identifying how they could save the correct amount of money each month, taking into consideration the income and outgoings, as well as what is a necessary expenditure and what can be cut down. So, rather than buying sweets or fizzy drinks every week for ten weeks, the amount saved could pay for a day trip to a theme park whilst on holiday.
3. Incorporate financial literacy into broader school life
Incorporating financial literacy into broader school life, by including discussions about money, enterprises and business into other lessons, is another way which could help expand young people’s knowledge of money management. For instance, during a history lesson you could discuss the history of money i.e. bartering a cow for beans and how it has developed into modern day exchange; or explain the geographical differences in money such as the currencies used around the world and how exchange rates work; and use maths lessons to balance a bank statement or show why buying two individual items in the supermarket can sometimes be more cost effective than a special double deal.
It is also hugely beneficial to help parents become more financially literate as well as pupils. Looking at community initiatives or drawing on the skills of your board of governors can provide you with inspiration to help you pass on this knowledge in the way you feel is most appropriate.
It is also worth noting that there are opportunities for young people to continue learning beyond school. The Money for Life programme from Lloyds Banking Group, for example, aims to teach 16-25 year olds how to make the most of their money through an online resource hub, face to face peer training sessions and a savings app, Pennies to Pounds.
About the author
David Rowsell is head of education and employability programmes at Lloyds Banking Group, which has launched programmes such as StandingOut, which aims to promote good governance and business management in schools; and Money for Life.