Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, explains how a new joint report highlights the need for primary school children to learn about money management and the importance of saving.
Children of all ages are being bombarded from every direction with messages enticing them to acquire everything, from the latest gadget to the must-have toy.
As increasingly younger children are making decisions about money, it is critical that primary schools teach the realities of managing on a budget. Children of all ages need to understand how easy it is to get into problem debt and the importance of saving.
That is why we worked closely with the Archbishop’s Task Group on Responsible Credit and Savings, the Association of British Credit Unions Limited, and Young Enterprise to produce the evidence report ‘Supporting Young Savers: The case for savings clubs in schools’.
It is vital that the children of today become savers – not just tomorrow, but now. This is crucial to their learning about how to manage money and to protect them from getting into problem debt when they are adults.
Day-in and day-out, in our frontline work in our services, we see the devastating effect that coping with problem debt has on families up and down the country. Two and a half million children live in families with problem debt. Many are having to cut back on essentials like food, clothing or heating for their children in order to keep up repayments. We know from our work with the Stepchange Debt Charity that children are suffering worry and anxiety, being bullied and going without the basics because their families are trapped in debt.
It is vital that children get skills to equip them with the financial understanding they need to avoid being pushed into problem debt.
As ‘Supporting Young Savers’ reveals, over half – 58% – of children have bought something online before they were 12. Nearly three-quarters of 15-year-olds with a bank account have a debit card. Children of all ages are aware of advertising and its power. More than half of children aged 10 to 17 said they saw advertising for loans ‘often’ or ‘all the time’.
Huge numbers of parents and 94% of teachers said they felt it was important that children should learn about how to manage money. It is a welcome step that the Government has made financial education a requirement in the secondary schools’ curriculum – but this needs to go much further. The Government needs to take action to make sure that children get a sound financial education starting early in primary school and carrying on that education right the way through to adulthood. Savings clubs are central to achieving this.
Already some primary schools have savings clubs. By providing practical experience of money management to complement financial education in class, these are a great way to improve children’s understanding of money. ’Supporting Young Savers‘ shows that the most effective savings clubs in schools tend to have the following features: A firm partnership with a local credit union; a ‘school bank’ from which children can make deposits and withdrawals; and integration between the practical experiences gained in saving clubs with the wider financial curriculum.
Savings clubs are a great way to improve children’s understanding of money. By promoting the further development of savings clubs in primary schools, the Government can make sure that children get the financial foundation they need from the early age at which they start making financial choices.
By Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society