School league tables widen to eight subjects

Secondary school league tables in England are to be re-designed to discourage an over-emphasis on pupils achieving C grades at GCSE, says Schools Minister David Laws.

From 2016, schools will be measured on overall results in eight GCSE subjects.

There will be four key league table measures, showing pupils’ progress as well as final grades.

Education Select Committee chairman Graham Stuart has hailed the change as an “educational breakthrough”.

Mr Stuart said it would remove the “damaging obsession” with the C grade boundary.

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UK demand for financial education highest in Europe

The demand for financial education in UK schools is the highest in Europe, according to a survey.

Research by the organisation Ipsos for banking group ING found that 88pc of adults in the UK said financial education should be taught in schools; the highest level of support of 12 European countries surveyed.

Demand for financial education in schools was lowest in France, at 63pc.

Financial education will become compulsory in schools across England for the first time next year, following its inclusion in the new curriculum.

Personal finance is already taught in schools in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Tracey Bleakley, chief executive of Personal Finance Education Group (pfeg), said: “This research shows that the UK is leading Europe when it comes to demand for financial education – and we want to see it leading Europe when it comes to its supply as well.

“Financial education’s new place in the secondary National Curriculum from next September will make a huge difference, but is not enough on its own. We need to ensure that all schools – including primary schools, Academies and Free Schools – give their pupils the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to manage their money well.”

Despite being the strongest supporter of financial education in school, only 12pc of UK adults surveyed said they had been taught about money in class, lower than the weighted average of 13pc.

In contrast, a quarter of Austrians surveyed said they had received financial education lessons in school. However, the under-25s in Europe are much more likely to have received financial education at school than older age groups.

Almost 12,000 people in 12 countries were polled by Ipsos between April 18 and May 15 this year.

The Money Advice Service released research earlier this year which found that most children’s financial habits have already been formed by the time they reach seven years old.

“Money” to be taught in schools – with a lesson on state spending

Financial education has been confirmed as an official part of the English national curriculum, including lessons on the public finances.

Children will be taught how to manage their money in schools for the first time in England, after financial education was included in the final version of the national curriculum.

The detail was published last night by the Department for Education and includes financial education in mathematics and citizenship education for secondary school pupils.

There have been further elements added since a draft curriculum earlier in the year opened to consultation, including lessons in how public money is raised and spent.

Personal finance is already taught in schools in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In Mathematics, “financial mathematics” is emphasised for the first time. Pupils will be asked to solve problems involving percentage change and simple interest, for example.

Pupils will learn to manage their money and plan for future financial decisions in citizenship classes, which will also include lessons in financial products and how public money is raised through measures like income tax, according to the published curriculum.

The curriculum will be rolled out across all government-funded, or maintained, schools, from September 2014.

Tracey Bleakley, pfeg chief executive, said: “It is especially welcome to see the link between personal finance and public finances restored to the final programmes of study for Citizenship education.

Rising inequality mars children’s lives

Inequality and disadvantage continue to blight the lives of millions of children born in the UK, more than 40 years on from the publication of a landmark report into the experiences of children from poor backgrounds.

Greater Expectations by the National Children’s Bureau finds that the number of children living in poverty today has risen by 1.5 million since the NCB carried out its study Born to fail?, in 1969.

The new report says that ‘unequal childhoods’ are now a permanent feature of British life.

It concludes that, ‘Today, although there have been some improvements, overall the situation appears to be no better, and in some respects has got worse.’

NCB is calling for the setting up of a Government board with ministers tasked to develop and implement a strategy to reduce inequality and disadvantage. It also recommends that the Office for Budget Responsibility should assess and report on the impact that each Budget has on child poverty and inequality.

Teach the young to be cash smart

Financial education is joining the national curriculum next year, but it’s not just up to schools.

They may not be allowed to vote, drink or drive, but the UK’s under 18s are making important financial decisions and developing money habits, both good and bad, from a surprisingly young age – and without any formal money education.

As thousands trudge back to school after the summer break, they may not be guaranteed even the most basic guidance right now but financial skills will finally be incorporated into the national curriculum in 2014. Only time will tell if it encourages a more financially responsible generation.

So how can you give your children a head start?

Leading charity pfeg (the Personal Finance Education Group) has long been campaigning for financial education in schools, highlighting the dangerous gaps in the knowledge of young people.

The group has uncovered widespread misunderstanding of many basic principles of money management among 14-25 year olds.

Nearly half cannot interpret bank statements and the difference between being in credit and overdrawn, while more than one in four don’t know that a lower APR (annual percentage rate) is more attractive than a higher one when taking out credit, its research has found.

Research has also shown that adults exposed to financial education in school accumulate greater wealth and are more likely to save for retirement, therefore proving less of a burden on taxpayers in later life. The Centre for Economics and Business Research found that a lack of financial education is a huge drain on the wider economy, costing £3.4bn a year in debt, mis-sold financial products and issues such as unemployment and retirement provisions.

Financial education couldn’t be more relevant today – young adults have access to more forms of credit than their parents’ generation ever had and many will leave university with huge levels of debt.

The move to bring in financial education as part of the compulsory national curriculum, starting in September 2014 in England, is a crucial step. The new programme covers financial mathematics, while the decision-making aspects of finance will feature in citizenship lessons.

At key stage three children (ages 11-14) lessons will cover the functions and uses of money, the importance of personal budgeting, and managing risk. At key stage four (ages 14-16) lessons move on to cover income and expenditure, credit and debt, insurance, savings and pensions, as well as a range of other financial products and services.

Families struggling as child costs rise, says CPAG

Families are struggling as the cost of bringing up a child has risen to £148,000, according to research for the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

The report, co-funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says costs have risen by 4% over the last year.

At the same time it says the value of benefit payments has fallen in real terms.

The government has said such cuts are necessary in order to reduce the UK welfare bill.

But, as a result, the CPAG says parents face a “growing struggle” to provide a decent standard of living for their families.

“This research paints a stark picture of families being squeezed by rising prices and stagnant wages, yet receiving ever-diminishing support from the government over the course of the last year,” said Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the CPAG.

Parents forced into debt to pay for school uniforms

Parents are being forced to fork out hundreds of pound to kit out their children for attending state schools, according to a survey out today.

The average cost for kitting out a primary school pupil is now £156 – including uniforms, coats and bags – and £285 for a secondary school.

According to the charity Family Action, which carried out the survey, the cost has increased as the number of flagship academies and free schools increases.

The charity points out that this means parents on the poverty line are being forced to spend up to two-fifths of their income in August on back-to-school costs.

“Many schools use the transition to academy status as an opportunity for rebranding – which often includes changing the uniform,” says their report, The Big Stitch Up. “Although some headteachers will argue that rebranding a school can have a positive effect, it can also result in parents having to pay a significant penalty in back-to-school costs.”

The survey of 13 state schools – 10 secondary and three primary – unearthed one example of an academy where 70 per cent of parents had to take out loans to pay for the new £225 uniform.  The previous uniform for the old school had cost £99.

The charity is urging schools to scrap specially branded school uniforms let parents shop around for plan, standard clothing from a retailer of their choice.

The report adds that local authority school uniform grants are now a “postcode lottery” – with several offering nothing at all in the way of help for parents.

Advice from the Department for Education says schools should “make certain that the uniform chosen is affordable and does not act as a barrier to parents when choosing a school”.

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