Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards adds its weight to the campaign for better financial education in schools

Tucked away in the report of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, published this week, was an important endorsement of the need for significant improvements in financial education.

In its summary, the report stated: “A more financially literate population will be better capable of exerting meaningful choice, stimulating competition and exerting market discipline on banks, which, in turn, can drive up standards in the industry.”

This brief but nonetheless sharp focus on the need to improve financial education has been welcomed by Tracey Bleakley, chief executive of pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group) which, having successfully campaigned for a place for financial education in the national curriculum for secondary schools, is now concentrating on primaries.

Debt Advice Foundation’s education programme sees secondary students teaching the basics of money management to local primary pupils.  Some of these children are taking messages about budgeting and saving home to parents – and we regularly hear parents saying they wished they had had lessons like these when they were at school. 

The Report on Banking Standards made it very clear that it was the responsibility of the banks to ensure people could understand their products, calling for a “relentless drive towards the simplification of products and the introduction of clear, simple language.”  And it condemns banks which “design ever more complex products and then blame consumers for not being financially literate enough to understand them”.

Today campaigner Martin Lewis made some extremely important points on this theme, and on the responsibilities of financial institutions, when he argued “in support of stupid people’s rights.

With an increasing impetus for schools to improve financial literacy and sustained pressure on the finance sector to get its house in order, is there now a small glimmer of light at the end of this particularly dark and difficult tunnel?