BSA event and report showcases strong member support for financial education

The Building Societies Association (BSA) last week launched a new report shining a spotlight on the work of individual building societies and credit unions in providing financial education within schools and their wider communities.

The Building Societies Association (BSA) last week launched a new report shining a spotlight on the work of individual building societies and credit unions in providing financial education within schools and their wider communities.

Based on feedback from members, it includes a number of case studies about members outreach programmes and calls for improvement in the following key areas:

  • An increase in the funding for financial education
  • For England to follow Scotland and Wales, with financial education added to the primary school curriculum
  • Encourage academies and free schools to give the topic more weight in their programmes.

In conjunction with the publication of the report, the BSA hosted an online webinar last week for members to share their experiences of offering financial education. Young Enterprise and The Money Charity joined the event to talk about the current state of play of financial education in the UK. 

Acute need for financial education in the cost of living crisis

The two charities were the first to speak at the event and provided practical examples of the support they provide to young people (and wider) making the point those educators themselves needed equal levels of support. 

Echoing the BSA’s call for more funding for financial education, Russell Winnard, Chief Operating Officer at Young Enterprise, said that a key barrier was pressure on curriculums and that “the vast majority of teachers say they don’t feel they have the knowledge and skills to provide financial education”.

However, he added that financial education has an increased focus in the context of the current cost of living crisis.

At a time when more than a quarter of families have less than £100 in savings, he said financial education was allowing young people to make more informed decisions about their finances and know where to get more information. 

Despite the valuable contribution financial education made, Winnard added that the curriculum and mandate for financial education varied across the separate nations of the United Kingdom.

In particular, he highlighted the fact that there is no curriculum for primary schools in England and no requirement for Academies to follow the curriculum. 

In fact, survey findings from the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) found that only 38% of children and young people recall learning about how to manage money at school.

This was 2% less than a previous survey carried out by MaPS, which Winnard described as “pretty poor”.  

Michelle Highman, Chief Executive Officer at The Money Charity, was also concerned about the current economic environment and said inflation was adding an extra £400 per month to the cost of basic goods and services needed by the average two person household.

“What we are doing is really important right now,” she said, “it’s not just about maths and numbers, it is practical and the emotional side of money as a family and child.”

Building Societies and Credit Union supporting communities

The event then heard from four building societies - Newbury Building Society, Principality Building Society, Leeds Building Society and Newcastle Building Society – who all talked about the work their respective organisations had done to bring financial education to life. 

For example, Newbury Building Society talked about its Junior Newbury Building Society (JNBS), which was set up in 2008 to teach young people between 7 and 11 about money and good savings habits. At individual schools, it initially set up weekly ‘branches’, where years 2-5 were encouraged to save money, and children from Year 6 trained as cashiers. Post-Covid, it was now running services digitally and helping even more schools. 

For Principality Building Society, the focus was making its services fun and engaging rather than just about maths and the practicalities of managing finances. In addition to Principality developing the Goose Cake Bake Book to promote the importance of introducing money in early years, it has also used its mascot Dylan the Dragon for its educational app, Dylan’s Savings Squad. During the Pandemic, Principality brought out new additions of app to keep pupils engaged, encouraging pupils to think about needing and wanting something.

Leeds Building Society similarly deployed a range of different services beyond supporting services within schools, with additional measures including a sponsored exhibition at Leeds City Museum called Money Talks, which was seen by 300 pupils over three days, to careers advice and targeted sessions for students with learning difficulties.

With the North East of England having the worst child poverty outside of London, for Newcastle Building Society financial education was viewed as a key priority, with recent work including a strategic partnership with Newcastle United Foundation

The Building Society had also engaged with the army in some areas of the North to deliver a programme of education for young soldiers to help them have a better understanding about their finances.

Building towards a more financially resilient population in the UK

Ending the session, Kanika Kharbanda, savings policy specialist at the BSA and author of the BSA report, concluded that members with their unique approaches to financial education are contributing significantly to position financial education in the curriculum like a mainstream subject, however more needs to be done. 

The BSA report highlights these wide-ranging approaches and discusses the motivation and effective bits of members’ programmes.

“These regionally embedded initiatives are aiming to help the next generation build financial literacy which will help them make confident financial decisions in the future,” she said.

“It can be seen as a starting point towards a more financially resilient population in the UK.”