Radical rethink of financial education in Britain backed by Lowell

24th June 2022

A new report from the Centre for Social Justice supported by Lowell has revealed thedire state of financial literacy in Britain and recommends compulsory money management lessons for primary school students.

The report finds that lack of financial knowledge among children is posing unprecedented risks with nearly 14 million adults with experience of financial problems believe that low money management skills had contributed to their plight.

Nearly half of the population (44 per cent) believe that more financial education would help to improve their financial situation with over two thirds (68 per cent) of young people (aged 18-34) with experience of financial problems believe that low money management skills contributed

Half of consumerss failed a financial literacy test run by the OECD, putting Britain below Thailand and Albania in the global rankings. Twenty-four million adults report not being confident handling their money day to day.

Whilst only one in three children receive financial education at primary school, yet financial literacy disparities between children in different socio-economic backgrounds are already pronounced by the age of 11.

The introduction of financial education on the national curriculum in 2014 in secondary schools in England has not translated into all pupils receiving adequate financial education; two-thirds of teachers believe that students leave school with a poor level of financial understanding

As the internet has become an established part of life for children from an early age, with nearly all children between 5-15 going online in 2020, the report found that the lack of financial knowledge among children is posing unprecedented risks. For those aged 8-11, digital spending within online marketplaces and mobile games has hit record highs and according to the National Audit Office as many as 55,000 children aged 11-16 were found to be ‘problem gamblers’, with an additional 85,000 at risk.

Poor financial education in school years leaves young adults exposed, particularly amid a rapidly evolving financial market where new risks crop up all the time. The inquiry heard that one in eight young adults who have taken out a “buy now, pay later” credit agreement ended up being contacted by a debt collector.

The report also found that learning how to manage money is a particular challenge for children from the most deprived backgrounds. The CSJ present evidence showing that children from low-income backgrounds are less likely to receive pocket money, and therefore have fewer opportunities to develop positive spending and saving habits. The accelerated move to a cashless society combined with fewer poorer children having online bank accounts has also reduced opportunities to practise money management from an early age.

Evidence shows that there are profound geographical disparities in financial skills in Britain, and financial literacy and budgeting skills are especially lacking in areas of high deprivation. The inquiry heard that 76 per cent of schools with children most in need of financial education are in areas of high deprivation. Heightened levels of financial vulnerability in the Midlands and North of England post-pandemic, as revealed by Lowell and the Urban Institute’s Financial Vulnerability Index, suggest the additional need for better financial education in areas key to the Government’s Levelling Up agenda.

The report, endorsed by Education Select Committee Chair Robert Halfon MP, revealed that a significant portion of the British population lacks financial literacy and the skills necessary to manage money effectively.

 John Pears, UK Chief Executive at Lowell, said “With the cost-of-living increases hitting home, financial literacy would be a strong barrier. Unfortunately, we just aren’t good enough at it in this country.”

“Our own customers have told us how ill-prepared they felt to deal with debts. The lack of financial literacy and budgeting skills creates spirals of debt that are hard to break and have a long-lasting impact, individually and on our economy.”

“We need to look at radical change, over the course of people’s lives, to ensure that everyone has the skills to manage their money and navigate modern financial products. We need to build proper financial resilience in the UK.”