OpinionMay 30 2013

Is financial education pointless?

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OVER the years I have spent a lot of time on trains, trams and tubes (not quite trains, planes and automobiles) going to see with my own eyes what the financial services industry is doing to help today’s youngsters understand key money issues.

Sometimes I have wondered why I bother – especially when there has been points failure just outside of London and I do not get home until the early hours (one trip back from visiting a Norwich School sticks in the craw – London’s Liverpool Street at four o’clock in the morning is not a welcoming place, I can assure you). But invariably the hassle has always been worthwhile.

Watching school children getting to grips with key money issues – everything from how a bank account works through to the value of saving – is always an uplifting experience. Watching employees from some of the country’s biggest financial brands (some of them very well paid) give a little bit back in the form of personal finance education is also rewarding.

As far as I can see, it is a no-brainer. It is absolutely vital that kids understand basic personal finance matters long before they go through university and start searching for a job. So any initiative designed to help achieve that goal should be applauded.

By way of example, most recently, I made the short journey from my temporary home in London’s Docklands to Mulberry School for Girls in Shadwell, Tower Hamlets. It was a special morning. The school, as headteacher Vanessa Ogden is keen to point out, is a high achieving, over-subscribed and very successful girls’ comprehensive school for pupils aged 11 to 18. In her own words, the school’s aim “is to develop confidence, creativity, leadership and a love of learning with our young women as we believe this enables our pupils to lead successful, happy and fulfilled lives, making a contribution to their own community and wider society.”

As part of that objective of fuelling confidence and creativity, Mulberry School works closely with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. For the past nine years, the bank has been involved in the Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership which supports the education of local children by bringing schools and local businesses together.