From education to employment

Hundreds of Thousands of Pupils Leave School Without Money Skills

kids in class
  • 3 in 4 teachers say most students leave school or college without key financial skills.
  • Almost all teachers think children should be taught about money and most think it should happen in primary school.
  • Less than half of children currently receive a meaningful financial education.
  • MaPS: “UK’s future financial wellbeing is hanging in the balance, so everyone needs to work together.”

Three in four UK teachers think most young people now leave school or college without the money skills they need, according to new research from the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS).

In its poll of 1,012 teachers, carried out by YouGov, 76% said the majority of pupils finish their education without the financial knowledge they need for adulthood. 

MaPS estimates that around 366,000 young people finish education annually, meaning hundreds of thousands each year could be leaving school financially unequipped. As a result, it’s asking everyone involved in financial education keep up their efforts to help reach the ones missing out.

Research already shows that children form money habits when they’re young and attitudes towards it start developing between the ages of three and seven, so MaPS says financial education needs to begin early in their lives.

Most of the teachers surveyed agreed, with a quarter (26%) saying it should start in nursery. Almost half (44%) said between the ages of 5-7 and 19% thought ages 8-11.

Less than one in ten (9%) believed it should only start in secondary school or later.

The poll, conducted in November, also revealed that almost all teachers (96%) think schools should offer financial education, with 76% deeming it “very important.”

Asked to list the reasons why students were leaving unprepared, 79% said other subjects took priority. Around a quarter said teaching staff didn’t have enough confidence or skills (25%) or weren’t sure where to find the right support and resources (26%). 

The complexity of financial topics and products (20%), money being a sensitive topic (18%) and young people not being interested (15%) were the other main responses. 

Money is on the curriculum in all four UK nations, usually as part of maths and numeracy, citizenship and personal development subjects. However, the age at which schools are required to deliver it differs and some schools, such as England’s academies, don’t have to follow it.  

MaPSis concerned that the message might not be cutting through, with its previous research showing that less than half of children (48%) say they’ve had a meaningful financial education. Just a third (33%)recall receiving one they considered useful at school. 

Those that do are more likely to be active savers, have more positive attitudes towards money and feel confident in managing it. 

As part of its UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing, MaPS is working with multiple partners to increase the number of children receiving a financial education by two million, from the 4.8m achieved in 2020 to 6.8m by 2030. 

To help achieve this, MaPS has invested £1.1m in financial education over the last year. The results so far include in-depth research into what children and young people need, a dedicated Talk Money kit for schools and the funding of programmes to test new approaches to teaching the topic.

MaPS is also calling on schools, parents, funders, financial institutions and financial education providers to help, as they all have a big role to play in reaching more and more children and young people.

Lisa Davis, Senior Policy Manager for Children and Young People at the Money and Pensions Service, said:

“Teachers have a unique insight into young people’s lives and their message is clear; too many miss out on the money skills they need. This could mean that every year, hundreds of thousands exit the school gates for the last time completely unprepared for managing their finances.

“It leaves them less likely to understand financial products, save or talk about money. They’re also more at risk of making poor financial decisions, leaving the UK’s future financial wellbeing hanging in the balance.

“The UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing targets two million more children and young people getting a meaningful financial education by 2030. Everyone involved in their lives has a major role to play and it’s crucial that we work together to deliver for them.”

Sector Response

Sarah Hannafin, head of policy at school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“Schools want to provide the children with a broad and balanced curriculum which prepares them for the opportunities and responsibilities of adulthood.

“Financial education is a vital part of that as it can help protect children from increasingly complex financial harms including gambling, scams, in-game purchases and online exploitation. Financial wellbeing is also important in supporting children and young people’s mental health.

“But it can already be challenging for schools to cover the National Curriculum and qualification specifications in the time available, and this is exacerbated by government policies and high stakes accountability measures focusing on particular subjects.

“Schools need sufficient curriculum time, appropriate, properly-funded training for teachers, and freely available high-quality resources to support children and young people to develop their understanding of financial issues.”

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