'My sons are financially ignorant and know nothing of mortgages and interest rates. Shouldn't they be taught about this at school?'

Hilary's advice

Part of me wants to say: well, what's stopping you teaching them at home? If, as you say, you sit around your family supper-table discussing the sub-prime crisis, why not use this opportunity to give your children some clear explanations of financial realities? It sometimes seems as if parents have become like children themselves, always expecting someone else to pick up the pieces.

But it's more serious than that. We have a personal debt crisis and a financially illiterate population, and few families who talk about bundled loans over the spag bol, so schools are having to step in and teach personal finance.

In fact, for the past five years teachers have been expected to address issues of spending and saving, as well as the rights and responsibilities of consumers, through maths, social education and citizenship lessons. The Personal Finance Education Group charity has been offering lesson plans and resources. Now it has launched What Money Means, a national campaign to improve finance education in primary schools.

Some teachers find the thought of teaching personal finance daunting, but many children appear to love it. They immediately see the relevance to their own lives and find that even concepts of compound interest and profit margins become easy to grasp if wrapped up in practical saving projects or stock-market games. The lessons can be great fun – although it remains to be seen whether they will have any effect on the nation's financial habits.



Readers' advice

My son has started at a school where they run a school bank once a week. He says it is run by GCSE students, who take in money and stamp students' cards. It has made him interested in saving some of his money for the first time, and he's said he'd like to work in the bank. We think it would a good thing if all schools did this.

Feriha Oktar, London N7

Four years ago, I reluctantly embarked on some financial education with my class of six-year-olds. We looked at coins and money, and played shopping games. I was amazed at how enthusiastic they were, and it helped with literacy and life skills as well. I came to realise how, even at this young age, they were aware of and worried about family debts. I now believe these financial things are some of the most important schools can teach.

Rosemary Thompson, Kent



Why should schools have to be drafted in to help sort out problems caused by the greed of the banks and credit-card companies? If money was harder to borrow, we would not have this have-it-now spending culture, and people would not be able build these awful debts. Then money could go back to being the common-sense issue it always was, and children would be free to learn school subjects, free of adult concerns.

Florence Orr, Norwich

Next Week's Quandary

Dear Hilary,

Why bring in academic diplomas for sixth-formers when we have perfectly good A-levels? I understand the logic of vocational diplomas, because we have never got technical education right, but why fiddle around with mainstream subjects? It seems to me it will only mean expense and muddle. Am I missing the point?

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce, to arrive no later than Monday 19 November, to 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or email h.wilce@btinternet.com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition

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