And finally… physical money becoming an alien concept to children

New academic research has revealed that school pupils in the UK are becoming increasingly unable to work out change, with physical money rapidly becoming an alien concept to them.

The seemingly relentless rise of card payments and the contactless revolution were cited by researchers at University College London for altering children’s perceptions of money as they become ever more accustomed to watching their parents pay with their cards.

The academics also discovered that youngsters experience of handling of physical cash was dwindling because the practice of earning pocket money for doing chores appears to be a dying tradition.

The researchers, who were studying the current maths curriculum in England and Wales, observed lessons in primary and secondary schools and said they were ‘shocked’ by children’s lack of numeracy and financial literacy when handling money.

In one primary school, seven and eight-year-olds were using plastic coins to model transactions that included finding the total cost, giving change, and working out different ways to “pay for things”.

About half the class had “significant difficulty” because they were unfamiliar with the use of coins, different combinations of values, or of the notion of “change’”.

Dr Jennie Golding, from UCL’s Institute of Education, said opportunities for children to handle cash were dying out and that cards had replaced coins – even in activities such as paying for school dinners.

Observations in a secondary school classroom found that none of the teenagers received pocket money or had a part-time job to give them a regular income. If they went shopping, they were given money or their parents would pay.

When the teacher showed one class of 14 and 15-year-olds a spreadsheet for her monthly budget, students showed no understanding of taxes – describing them as “a rip-off” – or of mortgages or other loans.

Declan Wilkes, of financial education charity MyBnk, said: ‘These findings are both a sign of the times and a reflection of the state of financial education in schools.’

He stressed the importance of including young people in financial discussions at home, and added: ‘It’s as cash fades from everyday life that we are actually realising how little we talk about personal finance in the home.’