Young teenagers get their own finance qualifications

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The Independent Online

The UK's first official personal finance qualifications for 14-to 16-year-olds are to be launched in September, giving teenagers the opportunity to learn about money in the classroom from a younger age.

The new level 1 and level 2 certificates, created by the Institute of Financial Services (IFS), follow on the heels of the IFS's level 3 qualification, equivalent to AS-level, which was launched three years ago.

Levels 1 and 2 are designed to be studied consecutively, during the 10th and 11th year of school, with the resulting qualification equivalent to a GCSE.

The qualifications are the latest in a wave of nationwide initiatives to improve financial literacy, and although schools can currently sign up to them on a voluntary basis, the IFS is lobbying the Government to make personal finance qualifications mandatory for teenagers.

The IFS's level 3 qualification is already taught at about 100 schools, and studied by as many as 2,000 students. However, the institute hopes that its reach will become much longer. Gavin Shreeve, the chief executive of the IFS, says: "Financial literacy in the UK is at crisis point with consumer debt hitting more than £1 trillion in 2005 for the first time. The introduction of the IFS level 1 and 2 qualifications could not have come at a better time, and we hope to encourage more schools and colleges to take up our financial capability qualifications to help secure a financially fit future."

The IFS encourages schools to work in conjunction with national financial services companies. A number of major UK financial services groups are set to volunteer representatives to help teach parts of the modules.

Each of the new IFS qualifications comprises two units - "An introduction to money" and "Money management" at level 1, and "Personal financial encounters" and "Money management solutions" at the second. Each module is then assessed by a 30-minute test, while all students must sit an hour-long synoptic test at the end of the course.

Although the IFS is the first organisation to design an officially accredited qualification for the 14- to 16-year-old age range, it is believed that several others are close to launching equivalent certificates.

Last year, the IFS bought ProShare, the private investor organisation, which runs a UK student investor programme helping students to learn about investing in the stock market. Some 31,000 students are currently participating in the scheme.

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