It’s time for schools to teach handling money By Shahid Naqvi Education Correspondent Runaway debt is the "financial equivalent of global warming" and needs to be addressed by schools teaching youngsters how to manage money, a Birmingham finance expert has warned.

Gill Ball, deputy president of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, said it was vital the basics of financial literacy, such as managing debt and saving, tax and pensions, were instilled in the classroom.

Business leaders last night backed the call, which came as personal debt in the UK stands at more than #1.25 trillion – nearly #60 billion of it on credit cards. Ms Ball will today call for money skills to be driven into youngsters at "as early an age as possible" during an address to leading Birmingham business figures at the Hyatt Hotel.

The leading businesswoman, who is also Birmingham University’s finance director and due to take over as president of ACCA next year, will demand financial awareness is embedded into the school curriculum.

"I have a statistic that tells me that debt is increasing at the rate of #1 million every four minutes," said Ms Ball.

"That is a worldwide figure. It is pretty scary. It is the financial equivalent of global warming. My focus at the moment is getting that position understood here in the UK and make sure as a nation we can do something about it."

Ms Ball said giving pupils a solid foundation in finances would help make them more responsible with their cash, stimulate entrepreneurship and result in better managed businesses.

She called on the Government to do more to promote the value of financial qualifications in the population as a whole to better prepare people for the demands of retirement amid concerns over pension contributions.

The most urgent work, however, needed to be in schools, she said.

"At Birmingham University we have students who leave with big debts. We can do something for them while they are at university. But it is really important that before they enter higher education they understand what the costs are and how they will manage that in the future."

A year ago The Birmingham Post launched a campaign calling on the Government to make financial literacy a compulsory part of the curriculum.

The drive, sponsored by Barclay’s Bank and backed by business leaders including former director general of the CBI Sir Digby Jones, was partly fuelled by concerns over growing student debt following the introduction of tuition top-up fees this year.

Money management is currently taught on a non-mandatory basis in schools within the subjects of personal, social and health education, citizenship and enterprise education.

Some schools do not teach it at all, meaning youngsters can go through their entire education without a single lesson in personal finance.

This September, the Government introduced a new course in personal finance aimed at 14 to 16-year-olds and offered at foundation and intermediate level, but steered clear of making it compulsory.

Chris Clifford, West Midlands regional director of the CBI, said: "It is something that we should look at bringing into parts of the curriculum.

"It needn’t be a subject in its own right, but a compulsory part of other subjects. The problem is if you make it voluntary, only a percentage will take it up. It is imperative that this teaching starts at an early age so people do understand the value of money and the necessity to prepare themselves for budgeting and financial arrangements later in life."

Next year the Department for Education and Skills is to publish revised guidance on how financial capability might be incorporated into the curriculum.

Alistair Matthews, policy director of Personal Finance Education Group – a charity promoting finance awareness – said: "Pfeg believes it would be helpful if there were a statutory requirement for schools to include personal finance education in their curriculum for all pupils at each key stage."