Please Sir … can you teach us how to avoid the credit crunch

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COMPULSORY lessons in money management are to be provided by one of Scotland's leading fee-paying schools from this autumn – in response to demand from worried pupils.

George Watson's College, in Edinburgh, has unveiled plans to run regular classes covering everything from how to budget properly and bank accounts to student loans and credit cards.

The 9,000-a-year fee-paying school admits the new weekly classes, which are being introduced alongside lessons in cookery and healthy eating, have been inspired by the impact of the credit crunch.

Research published last year suggested that more than nine in ten British adults never received any lessons at school about basic financial management or budgeting.

The move by Watson's, which with 1350 pupils in its senior school makes it one of the largest independent schools in Scotland, is a shift in direction from the normal practice in some schools of allowing banks and other financial institutions to come and offer advice on financial management to pupils.

Dr Rodney Mallinson, deputy principal at Watson's, said some senior pupils had been "frightened" by how the economic downturn had taken hold and realised they had to get a grip of issues like debt, credit, comparing mortgages and managing a budget.

He added: "There has been real demand for lessons on financial awareness and on how to plan a budget."

The school's economics staff will deliver the money-management lessons, which will alternate with healthy eating and cookery every week next term.

Ron Sandler CBE, chairman of Northern Rock and former chairman of Personal Finance Education Group (PFEG), said: "It is never too young to start learning how to handle money.

"Becoming financially aware – knowing what money is and what it means and how to be comfortable and confident dealing with it – are vital lessons which will stand them in good stead into their adult years."

Judith Gillespie, policy development officer for the Scottish Parent Teaching Council, added: "Teaching children how to manage money is to be welcomed but it needs to be about how to budget rather than lessons in general finance.

"For example, they need to learn about bank balances and the fact they might not show money they have just spent.

"Learning about loans and managing store cards is also a good idea."

It emerged earlier this year that independent schools across Scotland were cutting staff and delaying building projects as they brace themselves for cash-strapped parents removing children in their droves.

Headteachers fear expected job losses in well-paid industries, such as banking, will force parents to withdraw pupils, as school fees put too much pressure on household budgets.