£1.9m boost for finance learning

KIRSTEN DOWNER

More than 120,000 schoolchildren across England will learn how to budget and about the dangers of debt thanks to a three-way partnership between a small charity, three financial institutions and 400 schools.

Pfeg (The Personal Finance Education Group) normally has an annual income of ?xA3;200,000. Now it has ?xA3;1.9 million to spend over the next four years after three financial institutions sponsored its proposal of a financial literacy scheme for schoolchildren.

With credit more easily available than ever before and worrying levels of reported debt, many pressure groups have been pushing for better information to be made available to consumers.

"Our proposal came at the right time; the Financial Services Authority had been pressurising institutions to do something on consumer education and they were feeling the knock-back from pension and endowment scandals,

said Vola Parker, business and resources manager at Pfeg.

HSBC, Barclays, Prudential and the investment trust body AITC have provided the cash for the Excellence and Access Project, which will target 40 Local Education Authorities (LEAs), or 400 schools, across England.

Pfeg has trained 27 former teachers and Ofsted officials to go into schools and help teachers find ways of making financial literacy interesting and relevant to children. "We have to compete with sex and drugs education,

said Parker. "Our challenge is to make the teaching of personal financial literacy easy and engaging."

Each school gets a tailor-made financial literacy-teaching package designed for their particular needs. Some schools will concentrate on investments and pensions, while others will focus on the financial implications of mobile phones, for example.

A web site, www.pfeg.org, featuring case studies and ideas has also been launched to support the scheme and help ensure that its impact goes beyond the 40 LEAs currently signed up.

The Excellence and Access Initiative had the potential to help with social and financial inclusion as well as promote ethical and environmental issues around financial products, said Peter McNamara, inspector adviser at Salford LEA, one of the areas involved. "How many people handing over their child benefit books to loan sharks know about the existence of credit unions?

Children leaving school without any financial education will go into the world much more vulnerable people,

he said.

Schools participating in the scheme commit to providing 10 hours of financial literacy teaching over two years to students aged between 11 and 14.

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