January 4, 2013 9:31 pm

Banks in line to teach in UK schools

Lesson in a UK school©Getty

High street banks responsible for some of the worst consumer mis-selling scandals of the past decade will be invited into British schools to help teach financial education under proposed changes to the national curriculum.

Banks including Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays would be considered for a list of financial service firms permitted to use branded material when making classroom presentations in English primary and secondary schools from September 2014.

The plans are part of a campaign by more than 200 MPs to make financial education compulsory by embedding it into core subjects such as maths. “Teachers have to be trained to certain level but there should also be a database of organisations willing to go into schools,” said Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People – the largest all party group in parliament with 225 members.

Teaching unions and campaigners said schools would need to make sure companies did not treat their time in the classroom as a marketing exercise. “Heads and teachers should always be cautious about developing links with commercial organisations,” said Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, the largest teachers’ union. “Children and young people should not be exposed at an impressionable age to companies seeking to gain a foothold in their school.”

A number of banks have already provided staff time and teaching materials to thousands of schools on an informal basis, and insist such programmes have no commercial element. Between 2007 and 2011, HSBC funded a £3.4m programme for 20,000 primary school pupils called “What Money Means”.

Staff from Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest have also delivered lessons to pupils in approximately 1,200 secondary schools over the last 18 years via the bank’s MoneySense for Schools programme, while a “Santander in Schools” programme arranges for staff volunteers to visit secondary schools to talk about the role of banks.

“We recognise that teaching young people requires specialist materials and delivery, so we work in partnership with charities and schools to deliver workshops for secondary school students designed by education experts,” said a Santander spokesman.

Barclays’ Money Skills programme, aimed at 16- to 25-year-olds, provides education sessions in schools if requested by teachers. “This is about helping people with basic skills such as understanding interest rates and budgeting,” said a Barclays spokesman. “All of the education materials are independently verified as fit for purpose, and make no reference to Barclays products or services.”

According to the Department for Education, there are no rules that prohibit corporate involvement in teaching and brand names can be displayed in material used in lessons.

The Personal Finance Education Group, a financial education charity that has worked with many large banks to provide resources for schools, said that its policy of independence meant that none of its education materials promoted financial products, but allowed brand names to be displayed.

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