'Teachers earn as much as footballers!' Yet more reasons why we need Financial Education

'Teachers earn as much as footballers!' Yet more reasons why we need Financial Education

‘Sir, who did you vote for in the election?’ ‘Sir, how old are you?’ ‘Sir, have you ever taken drugs?’ ‘Sir, have you got a girlfriend?’

When it comes to awkward questions, students aren’t generally backwards in coming forwards. But the one I hate most isn’t any of the above, as squirm-inducing as they each are in their own way. No, the question that I’ve come to fear the most is:

‘Sir, how much do you earn?’

This isn’t because I dread shattering their youthful delusions that teachers must be paid in accordance with their worth to society, that we’re all millionaires who go home to our mansions complete with swimming pools (if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re actually robots who plug ourselves in to charge in the staffroom cupboard at the end of the school day). Nor is it because I’m scared of losing my painstakingly-earned high status once the children realise I’m on a lower salary than the Prime Minister.

Even if I don’t answer it, the students can easily find out for themselves that the average teacher in the UK earns £28,660. No matter what we may think of this figure, as professionals who work ourselves to the bone for what often equates, hour for hour, to minimum wage, the children’s response is only ever a mild variant of:

‘WOW, that’s LOADS!’

Once, this was even followed by, ‘that’s what a FOOTBALLER earns!’. I can only presume that this student was referring to a male footballer’s tea break.

What this all shows is that students, being children, often have a woeful understanding of money. They may know the exact price of the latest trainers, games consoles, or mobile phones, but their understanding of salaries and living expenses is all too often non-existent. Take for example the numerous students, usually girls, who tell me that they plan on becoming teaching assistants. Nothing wrong with this: it’s a fine role, providing a vital service to the community (not to mention requiring levels of tolerance and patience that most saints would find A Bit Much). But when these children discover the salary of a teaching assistant, they are shocked. What do you mean, rent and bills have to come out of that salary? How are they supposed to afford their own house, car, family?

The lack of education on financial issues in schools, combined with rising living costs, and students’ understandable desires for the latest gadgets that capitalism has convinced them they need, has created a dangerous environment for our young people - an environment in which payday loans companies have started to thrive. We have an obligation to give students the information which they need, before shiny offers of free credit cards start pouring into their inboxes. After all, today’s youth are already expected to accrue more debt than any other previous generation simply for the privileges of higher education and housing; they, more than anyone, need to know what they’re getting into.

A question I don’t mind students asking (not that they ever do – would that their questions were so insightful) is ‘Sir, what’s the best thing your mum ever did for you?’ She cut up my credit card when I was 18. In the absence of any financial guidance from my school, it stopped me from making a lot of mistakes.

Our students are entering a world of credit, debt and financial uncertainty. They need our very best guidance. We owe them nothing less.

Teaching Financial Education but not sure where to start? This free, fully resourced lesson gives students a thorough introduction into the world of responsible spending.

Introducing Financial Education to your curriculum? This highly, rated Money Management Unit will give students all the skills they need to master their finances, avoid debt and stick to their own, well planned budgets.