Citizenship has been a statutory subject for all KS3 and KS4 students in England for years, but the content it is required to cover seems to have been ever-changing. From a basic understanding of UN Human rights and the UK parliament to thinly concealed attempts to morph students into more compliant adults, few school leavers will tell you that citizenship, CSI or whatever their school called it was a valuable investment of their time.
Recently, the government has overhauled the subject in an attempt to make it more useful. Schools must now take it as an opportunity to teach financial concepts including “credit and debt, insurance, savings and pensions”, alongside inspiring a perhaps questionable level of patriotism.
A long-overdue response to criticism that young people are leaving Compulsory Education woefully lacking in basic life skills, it seems to be a definite move in the right direction.
This optimism must rather falter, however, when you learn that basic money management has been part of the national curriculum in some form for years. Despite this, only 40% of students 17 and under had received any lessons in the subject back in 2016.
Literacy rates and school attendance figures are currently amongst the highest in history, yet 18-year-olds are leaving school presumed adults while being entirely unaware of how bills work, what mortgages are or how to manage their credit score. Not only is this tantamount to a national embarrassment, but it leaves these young people open to being scammed out of their money and legal rights.
Will this latest overhaul make any real difference? That rather remains to be seen, but we really hope it does. In the meantime, young people will have to continue to rely upon Google, their parents and sheer blind luck for help paying bills, taking out loans and racking up efficient savings.
At least they won’t have to worry about mortgages, with house prices what they are…