How building societies and credit unions help to improve financial education for young people and adults

On National Numeracy Day 2022, we look at the financial education support building societies and credit unions are providing to young people and adults and discuss what more needs to be done.

On National Numeracy Day 2022, Andrew Gall, Head of Savings and Economics at the BSA highlights the financial education support building societies and credit unions are providing to young people and adults and discusses what more needs to be done.

As financial experiences start at a very early age, poor numeracy skills can have a life-long impact on a young person. The provision of meaningful and consistent financial education is therefore vital.

Research from the Money and Pensions Service shows 17% of 16 and 17 year olds report feeling anxious when thinking about their money, and this figure rises to 50% of 18 to 24 year olds.

Additionally, 67% of young adults do not feel confident planning for their financial future[1] , with Plain Numbers[2] stating that poor numeracy skills affect approximately half of all working adults, making it the single biggest cause of vulnerability.  This lack of financial understanding could have a detrimental impact on an individual’s financial resilience, limiting their ability to take opportunities.

Recognising a need within their local communities, many building societies and credit unions have been investing in and facilitating financial education initiatives for many years. The BSA, working with financial education experts Young Money, has also provided a range of financial education activities targeted across Key Stages 1-4. All these resources can help parents, carers and teachers to bring numeracy learning to life, strengthening the curriculum in schools and academies. During the Covid lockdowns, many of these resources and activities were adapted to be used remotely or for homeschooling.

Societies and credit unions, which are customer-owned and often regionally based, are well placed to support financial education for both children and adults. Many have built strong, ongoing connections with schools in their local area, ensuring they develop financial education tools which suits their specific context and are aligned with other high priority subjects. In many cases these complement other activities which develop pupils’ employability.

Young people often learn best when they are taught real, relevant and meaningful lessons. Societies and credit unions design their activities on the basis of the practical knowledge they gain from their day-to-day interactions with their customers and some include their employees delivering the lessons as part of their community volunteering programmes.

However, they cannot lead all this by themselves and more should be done to embed financial education into the curriculum. This would include:

  • Increasing the funding for financial education
  • Positioning financial education into the primary curriculum in England
  • Encouraging academies and free schools to give the topic more weight in their programmes

There is also scope to assess the impact of the different programmes that are being provided, to share, learn and adapt best practice and add new topics, such as digital banking and cryptocurrencies.

Parents, teachers and headteachers have been appreciating the efforts that our sector has put in to designing financial education programmes, which cater to the specific needs of their pupils. But delivering financial education must be a long, continuous and co-ordinated process if we are to truly help the next generation to make confident, financial decisions in the future.

We will shortly be launching a new report which explores the variety of approaches taken by different building societies and credit unions in financial education.

1.MaPS Financial Education Guidance for Primary and Secondary Schools in England 2021: https://maps.org.uk/2021/11/11/financial-education-guidance-for-primary-and-secondary-schools-in-england/

2.Plain Numbers Blog: https://www.bsa.org.uk/media-centre/bsa-blog/october-2021/plain-numbers-announce-partnership-with-bsa