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Should big brands be the ones pushing financial education?

Questions have been raised over the influence of companies on financial education as schools struggle to implement new lessons on money management.

Following the introduction of financial education to the national curriculum, the industry is being urged to play a role in ensuring schools have the expertise needed to teach the subject well.

But as schools appear to reject offers of help from financial advisers, concerns are being raised over the influence of corporate brands.

A ‘tricky’ year

Changes to the national curriculum that came into force in September introduced topics such as budgeting, credit and debt, savings and pensions to secondary school syllabuses.

But schools decide how and when to include the lessons, and experts say many are still finding their way in how to teach the subject.

Personal Finance Education Group chief executive Michael Mercieca says: “Schools are at very different stages in their delivery of financial education and for those who are just beginning it may well take the whole of this academic year to fully develop their provision.”

MoneySavingExpert editor Martin Lewis, who alongside Pfeg campaigned to get financial education onto the curriculum, says: “The first year of implementation was always going to be tricky and Ofsted is unofficially ‘going easy’ on schools this year while they get things in place.

“This is almost a development year, and we need to give schools time to adapt. It’s also worth remembering less than 50 per cent of schools need to follow the curriculum, so the next job is to persuade the head teachers of those that don’t that it is important.”

Tisa is currently working on a project which aims to improve the level of savings among consumers. It is due to publish a series of policy proposals in early March which will include recommendations on financial education.

Tony Stenning, head of UK retail business at Blackrock and chairman of the project, says: “Financial education from a young age is key to achieving a more financially resilient society and helping people make the right choices when it comes to things like pension freedoms.

“It is great that financial education is on the curriculum, but we need to ensure teachers have the right expertise and that it is taught consistently. As an industry there is more we can do to help.”

Industry resources

A survey of almost 500 teachers carried out by Royal Bank of Scotland last year found only 5 per cent felt fully prepared to teach financial education.

And the Government only last month announced it is working with Pfeg to develop resources for teachers on saving and pensions, which it says will be available later in the year.

Until then, Pfeg has a range of resources and lesson plans – as do a number of private companies,  including banks and building societies. Pfeg has also developed a quality mark for financial education resources.

GoHenry, which offers children a pre-paid debit card with parental controls for a monthly fee, has worked with a school to develop lesson plans and teaching resources which are freely available to secondary schools.

Chief operating officer Louise Hill says: “I am a school governor and what became clear last year is that although financial education became part of the curriculum, the Government was not producing a lot of resources to help deliver that content.”

Nationwide has an education programme, Nationwide Education, which offers online games for children as well as worksheets and other resources for teachers.

Its resources are branded Nationwide Education but the building society says they are independent of its products and services. Nationwide also visits schools to deliver lessons and talks on financial capability.

And last year it launched a programme to improve basic numeracy skills, which includes an event for secondary schools where they can interact with a pseudo Nationwide branch.

RBS has a MoneySense programme for 11-18-year-olds, which it says is used in 56 per cent of secondary schools across the UK and Ireland, including academies and independent schools, which do not have to follow the national curriculum.

It says MoneySense covers the basics of money management, including opening and managing a bank account, saving and budgeting.

An RBS spokeswoman says: “Our MoneySense websites have the RBS/NatWest logos but we ensure the bank and our products are not promoted in any way. Our websites are reviewed and endorsed by Pfeg which includes checking for impartiality.”

A number of companies also run financial education or enterprise days in schools.

Learning and development company Magnified Learning works with corporate companies including Legal & General and St James’s Place to deliver a financial education day on budgeting called Money Money Money.

Magnified Learning director Aroop Tanna says: “We help the corporate deliver the session, so it may help towards their corporate social responsibility agenda or to develop skills for their employees.”

Concerns

But some have raised concerns about big brands getting in front of school children.

Lewis says: “I have always been very wary of banks going into schools as a branding exercise. Go in, certainly, but leave the branding at home.

“Plus teaching children how banks work doesn’t teach them that there’s a competitive market and they need to compare a number of banks.”

RedSTART, which was started by three employees from investment consulting firm Redington, delivers financial education days in schools and partners with a number of financial services companies.

Co-founder Freddie Ewer says: “There are no products for us to push but when we do work with firms which could potentially have an ulterior motive we make sure all the branding is done by RedSTART, so we never get a company’s brand in front of kids.

“There is a danger there, particularly on the retail banking side, where firms may want to get their brand in front of children at a very impressionable age. Schools need to be very careful about who they let in front of their pupils.”

He adds: “The industry has a role to make sure financial education is taken seriously in schools and taught well, as teachers may not have the expertise, but that comes with caveats.”

Advisers

But while large corporate companies are playing a significant role in financial education in schools, advisers say they have found it difficult to get involved.

A number of advisers speak at career days in schools or at universities, but few if any are involved in financial education curriculum content.

Jacksons Wealth Management managing director Pete Matthew, who runs financial education site Meaningful Money, says: “I would love to be involved in teaching in schools. Whenever I have mentioned it to a teacher, there is a real desire to get something done, but in practice the call never comes.”

Penguin Wealth certified financial planner Craig Palfrey says his firm wrote to 40 schools offering to help with financial education and to pay for a year’s subscription to personal finance gaming tool Bamzonia.

He says: “We offered to cover the cost which was £400. Two schools phoned back but it didn’t go anywhere. I don’t know whether it is bureaucracy or something else, but the interest does not seem to be there.”

The Institute of Financial Planning also says it would like to get more involved with schools but does not have the resources.

But former Skandia head of proposition marketing Peter Jordan, who left the industry to train as a teacher and set up an automated tuition business, says advisers may not be best placed to help in schools.

He says: “Doing a couple of lessons will not make much of a difference in a school year that can run for 38 weeks.

“Teaching is not the same as talking at a seminar or doing a one-to-one. Advisers would need to find the right level and be capable of managing a class where not all pupils will be interested in listening and participating.”

Adviser view

Georgina Partridge, partner, Plutus Wealth Management

I am due to give a presentation at a secondary school next month on financial services as a career choice. It is important to get the next generation involved in finance and with the increasing focus on qualifications there is a clearer pathway for people to become an adviser from school or university.

56%

The proportion of secondary schools using RBS’s MoneySense financial education programme

5%

Proportion of 500 teachers surveyed by Royal Bank of Scotland who said they are fully prepared to teach financial education

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Comments

There are 3 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. I’ve just had the pleasure of teaching a group of new inductees into the industry as part of a wider pensions project sponsored by a big corporate.

    Let me be very clear about this, the educational system has let them down. It is NOT the job of the financial services industry to provide basic education.

    @80% of the group I had (ages from 18-50) couldn’t work out the return from a £100,000 pot after buying a 2.5% annuity; @90% had no idea about pensions, investments or finance in general.

    It was shocking to start with, but after a 3-4 weeks they got the hang of it.

    The education system is not doing a good job in preparing young (or old) adults for life; money, finance and investment education is part of that.

    It IS NOT the job of financial services to provide these basic skills. But, without them, then we will continue to develop low-skilled and low salary jobs.

    So, these big corporates are left with no option; train them onshore or go offshore…..

  2. John Reynolds is absolutely, unequivocally right.

    I have come across graduates that don’t know that 20% and 1/5 is the same thing. Educational standards and frankly pathetic.

    As to suggesting that the Big Brands get involved is sheer lunacy – akin to putting a wolf in the sheep pen. All the big brands will do is try to flog something and brainwash the poor dears by telling them how wonderful they are instead of instilling a heavy dose of cynicism – which is the best way of protecting them against these sharks.

  3. Great article Tessa, I am not surprised that schools and teachers are unprepared for this, nor should anyone else be.
    This is a big opportunity to help prevent many of the scams and buying mistakes of the past and sadly, the present. Its obviously a massive long term exercise and will take some considerable time to help deliver a better financially educated population. There’s already quite a lot of unbranded material and content currently being delivered to financial advisers, surely its in everyone’s interest to remove any branding from that used in schools too. There is no need to push individual brands, our kids and their parents don’t need any more brain washing.

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