MPs urge government to improve personal finance education in primary schools

The Education Select Committee has urged Rishi Sunak's government to bolster personal finance education by improving teaching materials and creating a financial literacy qualification for college-age students.

Finance education taking place in a primary school classroom
A cross-party committee of MPs has urged the government to improve personal finance education
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Personal finance education for primary school-aged children is “insufficient” and needs to be expanded, a report by a cross-party group of MPs has said.

The Education Select Committee has urged the Department for Education (DfE) to consider making personal finance a greater part of the national maths curriculum in primary schools, and to improve the quality of financial teaching materials used in the classroom. It has also said the government should introduce a financial literacy qualification as part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s drive to make maths compulsory for 16 to 18-year-olds.

Other recommendations included bolstering teacher training, and encouraging schools to appoint financial education coordinators to oversee the teaching of personal finance. The Committee’s chair Robin Walker said the subject “hasn't yet reached its full potential” in England.

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The report comes ahead of the 10th anniversary of financial education being made a compulsory part of the school curriculum in England. The other UK nations also include the subject in their curriculums - although the way it’s taught and how it fits into different school subjects varies significantly from nation-to-nation.

It also follows news that more and more children are turning to side hustles in a bid to earn spending money. At the same time, people are facing a scourge of scam activity, with the latest UK Finance fraud report suggesting education plays a key role in reducing the prevalence of fraudulent schemes.

Personal finance education needs ‘strong foundations’ in primary schools, MPs say

The Education Select Committee’s ‘Delivering effective financial education’ report, which has been published today (22 May), has called on the government to ensure young children receive a better standard of financial education.

Using evidence supplied by around 100 experts and organisations, the MPs on the Committee heard how personal finance education needs to begin early given children are being increasingly exposed to a rapidly changing financial world at a young age. Scams as well as advertising for get rich quick schemes were cited as two reasons why primary schools should provide a “strong foundation” for financial education that ensures they are “informed by good financial practice”.

The MPs urged DfE to review the contents of the mathematics curriculum for key stages one to four to ensure financial education is age-appropriate and relevant to the modern day. It said the current provision within the maths curriculum was “insufficient”.

The Committee also considered whether financial literacy should have a home in one subject or across several different disciplines. It said a cross-curricular approach was favoured by most of the experts it took evidence from, and suggested that schools should appoint financial education leads to ensure there is clarity around the teaching of the subject.

Rishi Sunak maths pledge should include financial literacy

As well as altering financial education in primary schools and secondary schools, the Committee also said it should form a key part of the PM’s plan to make maths compulsory up to the age of 18.

Rishi Sunak made the move a key priority for his premiership in a speech in April 2023. The policy is currently being consulted on, with no timeline for when it could be implemented.

The Education Committee made several recommendations to DfE about how personal finance education could fit into this proposed new curriculum, including the creation of a specific financial literacy qualification. It suggested this could provide students who are unable to take A-level maths with a means to progress with numeracy in a practical way, and could even form an alternative to GCSE maths tuition.

Doing so could help teenagers who are “transitioning into the workplace, paying taxes, considering applying for a student loan, and perhaps living away from home for the first time”, the report said. It added that a vital part of any extension to maths education was the recruitment and retention of specialist teachers.

Financial education ‘essential’ and ‘in need of an update’

Commenting on the report, the Education Select Committee’s chair - the Conservative MP Robin Walker - said: “Evidence we received was unanimous on two central points.

“Providing children with a financial education that is comprehensive and age appropriate is essential. Secondly, a decade since it was introduced with broad support, financial education in England needs an urgent update that takes account of how the schools sector, financial pressures on children and consumer habits have changed.”

He added: “We heard a strong backing case for starting financial education at primary school when pupils start to understand the concepts of managing money, and because young children need educating about the financial risks and pressures they are being exposed to online from an early age. 

“There is a compelling case for including different elements of financial education across citizenship, PSHE [personal, social, health and economic education] and maths in secondary school, owing to its relevance in so many facets of our lives. But schools also need support to deliver it effectively. That’s why we recommend that schools appoint a financial education coordinator to ensure coherence across the three subjects. DfE should provide guidance to help schools navigate the patchwork of educational materials to choose from, and there needs to be enhanced training for new teachers and their senior colleagues, including career development opportunities.”

Henry Sandercock
Staff Writer

Henry Sandercock has spent more than eight years as a journalist covering a wide variety of beats. Having studied for an MA in journalism at the University of Kent, he started his career in the garden of England as a reporter for local TV channel KMTV. 

Henry then worked at the BBC for three years as a radio producer - mostly on BBC Radio 2 with Jeremy Vine, but also on major BBC Radio 4 programmes like The World at One, PM and Broadcasting House. Switching to print media, he covered fresh foods for respected magazine The Grocer for two years. 

After moving to - a national news site run by the publisher of The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post - Henry began reporting on the cost of living crisis, becoming the title’s money editor in early 2023. He covered everything from the energy crisis to scams, and inflation. You will now find him writing for MoneyWeek. Away from work, Henry lives in Edinburgh with his partner and their whippet Whisper.