In a few weeks a new crop of teenagers will go through the agony and ecstasy of A-Level results day. For those lucky souls that get the grades they wanted an all day session at the pub beckons as two years hard slog is toasted. Yet a piercing hangover will kick in if not the next day then soon after and this one will be financially not toxically induced.
Students are now routinely asked to run up thousands of pounds in debt in order to educate themselves and that’s just a start of a journey that continues when they look to get on the housing ladder after graduation and then most importantly provide for their old age so as not to be still working at 70.
Yet while the state seeks to force people to stand on their own two feet financially from 18 to 80 they seem unwilling to help provide people with the necessary tools to avoid over indebtedness, rip offs and poverty in old age.
The wider issue is a huge one. The Leitch review for the Treasury recently estimated that half – half! – of all adults do not have the functional numeracy expected of an 11 year-old.
That’s about 21 million people, most of whom are among the poorer groups in our society. So next time you see a swotty 11-year-old, just think that he or she already has greater numerical skills than 21 million British adults.
Its taken around three years but it now looks like the government is about to tackle the problem at grass roots in schools. They are proposing to add an element of personal finance teaching to the new “functional maths” (Maths for thickies). However this will amount to around 7.5 hours of teaching over two years, which doesn’t sound anything near long enough, especially if you end up working until 70.
What’s required is a stand alone GCSE or A-Level in personal finance, one is already being offered by the Institute of Financial Services in about 30 schools across the country and could basically be taken off the shelf and inserted onto the national curriculum as of September if there was the will. I’m all for people standing on their own two feet but let’s teach them to walk first…
Mark Hanson is producer and presenter of political podcast ‘The Big Issue’.