Compulsory personal finance education in schools was days away last year, then in the pre-election “wash-up” it got scuppered as a by-product of the parties’ disagreement on sex-ed. Now it’s time to re-kick-start it and, with the News of the World’s help, I hope we did a bit of that yesterday.
This campaign needs to be set firmly in the political sphere; only Cameron, Clegg and their Ministers can make this happen. While some headteachers thankfully already do it, most don’t.
And I believe this is about knocking at an open door. In the pre-election MSE leaders debate, almost all of them supported it; the problem is getting it back on the agenda now they’ve so many other pressing priorities.
The News of the World
What seems crucial is to move this out of the attention of those who already care about money issues and into the wider sphere. Three weeks ago I called Matt Nixon, the NOTW features editor, to ask a special favour.
Normally I use my page there to write about techniques to save money, but I wanted to do a departure and asked for them to indulge me for a week with space to urge the PM and Dep. PM not to let compulsory financial education fall by the wayside.
This was escalated up to the editor Colin Myler, and the word came back that they were happy (see the web version of the end result here, News of the World). Yet on opening the paper, I was delighted to see they’d gone much further.
Not only was my full page there with a great illustration of Dave and Nick at the top, but in the main editorial column, Colin had written:
“Kids need owe-levels
“Millions of people in this country are unafraid of owing money, yet they are debt-illiterate with no clue about APRs, endowments or bank charges. It is not possible to go through modern life without borrowing – either for a house, or increasingly for a degree.
“So our financial crusader Martin Lewis is absolutely right to call for COMPULSORY personal financial education in schools – to understand the difference between good and bad debt. If you care about your children’s prosperity, join his campaign and make sure your MPs know how he feels.”
I know from the financial education poll we did that the vast majority of site users (97%) support this, yet to have the UK’s biggest newspaper on board with this campaign is fantastic, and makes it far more difficult for Messers Cameron and Clegg to ignore the message. Since the election it’s been difficult to get through the doors and meet the ministers to persuade them, maybe now that’ll get easier.
How much work needs doing?
Until recently plans were in place and materials were being written by Pfeg, the personal finance education group and others.
I wrote here earlier in the year (see past blog) how proud I was to be standing alongside then Children’s Secretary Ed Balls in introducing it to teachers. (the News of the World also supported it then with 2.8million free printed versions of the teen cash class guide given out with the paper).
Yet pre-election, in what’s called the ‘parliamentary wash up’, where parties horse-trade to agree which legislation to speed through, the wheels fell off.
The legislation to make this compulsory also included sex education and the parties couldn’t agree whether parents should be able to opt their kids out of that until 15 or 16.
Yet behind the scenes many – especially pfeg, continue the work and we all hope for resurrection. I’ve even been working on one module with them that’s a free teachers’ curriculum pack version of the Teen Cash Class guide.
So anything anyone can do to take up cudgels and start campaigning is welcome. For more details about what it entails see my past financial education blog and the financial education petition.
Fingers crossed we might get somewhere this time, it won’t be quick, but hopefully the wheels are back on, and starting to turn again.