The Personal Finance Education Group Pfeg hosted a fringe event at the Conservative party conference. Speakers included Mark Garnier MP, Justin Tomlinson MP and Tracey Bleakley from pfeg. Alex Harman, recent chair of the Arun Youth Council and Graeme McEwan, director of communications at Standard Life also joined the panel.
Pfeg and the APPG are campaigning for financial education to be brought into 4 different areas: primary & secondary education, further education, higher education and the vulnerable. The primary aim is to get financial education included on the national curriculum for primary and secondary education and the other areas will follow later.
Justin Tomlinson MP said he was approached by pfeg after asking some parliamentary questions and together they formed the All party group on financial education for young people. It is now the largest group in parliament with 234 members. Martin Lewis from moneysavingexpert.com is also involved with the group and leads on the higher education strand.
He added that the group produced a report and hosted an official government petition which achieved over 118,000 signatures. They were granted a debate in parliament and a meeting with the Prime Minister.
The group exist to educate young people and Mr Tomlinson added:
“This is about the ability to think through judgements. We’ve never said debt is bad”.
Tracey Bleakley said that ten years ago teachers “didn’t think it was their place” to educate children on money matters. Now pfeg has 8,500 schools on their books and 40,000 teachers. She added:
“Children get really engaged when talking about money; they like learning about money.” However 90% of young people still say they don’t have enough knowledge about money
Pfeg has compiled a large range of resources over 12 years for those aged between four and 19. They also hope to set up 1200 centres of excellence; schools or colleges ideally in deprived communities which would specialise in financial education and work with schools in their areas.
Graeme McEwan from Standard Life said: “We believe supporting children with financial education from an early age will help.”
He said that the UK national savings rate is one of the lowest in Europe at 3.5%. Germany is significantly higher, Switzerland approaching 30% and China nearly 50%. Together with 1.4 trillion of personal debt he said: "this situation will only get worse”.
Newly announced ‘Auto enrolment’ for pensions is a welcome move forward especially people are now likely to have 11 job changes in their working lives
Mr McEwan said that financial education needs to become part of the curriculum because “the earlier we start this, the better”. He cited the example of Scotland where it is already taught across four subject areas: English, maths, expressive arts and religious & moral education.
Mark Garnier MP who sits on the Treasury Select Committee also referred to the high personal debt in the UK. With 60 million people, the UK makes up 10% of the European population but we hold 50% of the European personal debt.
Mr Garnier said economic growth would be key to solving this debt crisis especially as the UK is already the sixth biggest exporter and second biggest exporter of services in the World. Start up businesses and micro businesses would also be key to this recovery and he added 98% of UK companies employ fewer than 10 members of staff already.
“We need to give people independence and training to seek jobs further afield and set up their own businesses".
Alex Harman, recent chair of the Arun Youth Council got involved with this campaign because the youth council wanted to do something about this lack of knowledge among young people. They have already had a special conference for young people on financial education and worked with citizen advice bureaux to brief students.
The Youth Council wrote to parliament and Alex led a group of five people to brief the APPG about financial education in his area. They have since created films for years 7, 9 and 11.
Alex said it was so important to get across to young people at an early age the importance of putting money aside and saving, as well as managing a monthly pay cheque.