Keeping "A level" head about finance

17th August 2014

It’s that time of year when schools all over erupt with joy, as pupils discover what grades they have received in their A levels. Many will now be thinking about university, while their younger counterparts are biting their nails for another week before the GCSE results arrive.

As someone who hasn’t taken an exam for many years now, I know what a slog all that studying can be, and I offer hearty congratulations to everyone who was worked so hard for their results.

Many of those celebrating yesterday are off to be undergraduates, many facing for the first time the financial reality of having to fend for themselves, manage a budget, and realise what they can and cannot afford. It’s a reality check that comes to us all - I had a Saturday job, cleaning, which made me understand how hard you actually had to work for what was the equivalent of about 25p per hour.

But how much easier would it be if everyone had learned the basics at school? The good news for those coming after is that from September this year, financial education will be on the national curriculum in England, after years of campaigning, including that by our supporters and financial education charities pfeg and MyBnk .

Financial education will start early, with English lessons including the spelling and meaning of words such as “finance” and “commercial” while older children will look at income and expenditure, insurance, the importance of money, income tax, and the difference between credit and debit – vital when, as MyBnk told us, one in 20 teenagers don’t understand they have to pay back what they owe on credit cards.

I learned through experience how to manage my money, but I am also of that generation for whom paper bills through the letterbox were a part of everyday life. Now, with smartphones and tablets, so many people are choosing to manage their money online, and anecdotally, we hear can get into all sorts of trouble if they have no grasp of income and outgoings.

I’m sure it’s not on the curriculum yet, but I do hope that some of those teachers will be telling their pupils that they ought to have a choice in how they receive that vital financial information from the service providers they deal with, whether on paper or online, so that we soon have a generation of savvy students ready to face a sound financial future.

Judith Donovan