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‘Huge variations’ in financial education in Welsh schools


‘Huge variations’ in financial education in Welsh schools

Freedom of Information request finds big differences ahead of financial education bill consultation

The teaching of financial education is subject to "huge variations" across schools in Wales, even though the subject is supposed to be compulsory, a Freedom of Information request has found.

Bethan Jenkins AM received replies from over 80 high schools and comprehensives – more than a third of the total number in Wales – and found that the time devoted to the subject in both mathematics and PSE lessons varies from 180 hours to nothing. The threat of pupils being subjected to a "postcode lottery" was highlighted in one case where two schools not 10 miles apart had a variance of as much as 18 hours at one key stage.

The research was conducted ahead of the launch of a public consultation into Bethan’s Private Members’ Bill. The Financial Education and Inclusion Bill will seek to increase and improve the provision of financial education in Welsh schools while giving local authorities greater powers to combat predatory lending and promote financial capability.

The consultation will run for six weeks, to April 28.

Bethan made two FoI requests:

Total hours of teaching of financial education within the mathematics curriculum at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4;
Total hours of teaching of financial education within the PSE curriculum at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4.
Some 81 schools across Wales provided information to Bethan. The highest number of hours taught in mathematics at KS3 was 180 hours and, at another school, 130 at KS4. For PSE, it was 30 hours at KS3, and 20 at KS4 – both at the same school.

The lowest for maths was 0 hours at one school (both KS3 and KS4), while the lowest for PSE was one hour at two schools (at both key stages).

The highest placed school overall taught 180 in maths and 15 hours in PSE at KS3, and 60 hours in maths and 15 in PSE at KS4, meaning its pupils would have received a total of 270 hours of financial education by the time they finish compulsory education.

The lowest placed school overall did not teach any financial education in maths at KS3 & 4, and three hours each in PSE at KS3 and KS4, a total of six hours. In contrast, the nearest neighbouring school taught a total of 38 hours (Maths - 18/12 hours at KS3/KS4, PSE – 4/4 hours).

Using the schools that responded, financial education is taught for an average of 17.1 hours in maths at KS3 – that’s 5.7 hours a year - and 13.9 hours, or 6.9 hours a year, at KS4. For PSE, it was 7.92 hours (2.64 hours a year) at KS3, and 6.84 (3.42 hours a year) at KS4. The average proportion of teaching hours allocated for maths in England is around 112 a year (there are no figures for Wales but they are thought to be similar).

Bethan said:

"What I found hugely encouraging during the course of this exercise was that there are many, many teachers who want to increase financial education provision within their schools. But, sadly, at present, we have a system that is all too dependent upon their enthusiasm for the subject.

"We cannot continue with the present arrangement. It is not good enough for the Welsh Government to say the subject is compulsory and just leave it at that. This research shows that, at best, we are heading towards another set of poor Pisa results if this isn’t addressed, and at worst, we are leaving the financial education of the current school generation resting purely upon where they live.

"There are huge variations in provision, and I believe the best way to address this is to make financial education a far more prominent part of learning. When we took this idea out to the public in summer, before the proposals were drawn up, a staggering 97% told us this was a good idea.

"Now that we have the proposals, we are hoping that as many people as possible take the time to give us their views. They will see, for example, that increasing financial education provision need not mean increasing teaching workloads – I’ve met with scores of organisations who are willing and able to deliver the subject to pupils.

"What we need now is a framework that makes financial education – which is an essential life skill – a fundamental part of the learning experience, rather than just a bolted-on afterthought. The Assembly has the powers to pass this Bill and make a real change for the better for people in Wales."

The research suggested that schools across Powys and Ceredigion had the smallest variation in financial education provision. It would require further responses to pinpoint which local education authority area showed to greatest variation, but there was some evidence that the most deprived areas in Wales have poorer teaching of financial education, although this would also require further work.

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