SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Ed Featherston, Kevin Benedict, Adrian Bridgwater

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Less Than Half of Young People Can Accurately Check They've Been Given the Right Change

Yet a quarter say they would prefer to drop maths as a GCSE option

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM -- (Marketwired) -- 02/12/14 -- Research(1) conducted on behalf of Nationwide Building Society reveals teenagers are struggling to master everyday number skills, as fundamental as working out correct change or choosing the cheapest products in shops, increasing the risk of them leaving school without a solid understanding of maths.

Nationwide asked 2000 Year 8 and 9 pupils to calculate the correct change from GBP 100, had they bought shopping totalling GBP 64.23. Worryingly, while everyone gave an answer, less than half (48%) got it right and more than a quarter (26%) were more than GBP 1 out.

Missing everyday number skills

Emulating other everyday tasks, 59% of the youngsters failed to select the best value supermarket multibuy, when faced with three choices, and 71% were unable to identify the cheapest mobile phone package, again from a choice of three. The extremely poor results demonstrate a lack of basic numeracy that could mean many are left out of pocket and spending more of their cash than they need to.

Yet a quarter (25%) of those polled would prefer to drop maths as a GCSE choice if it was not compulsory, increasing their likelihood of leaving school with inadequate maths and numeracy skills. The findings highlight a crisis that Nationwide Building Society is helping to address with Talking Numbers; a programme designed to tangibly improve the everyday number skills of 200,000 young people over four years.

Stephen Uden, Head of Citizenship at Nationwide, comments: "We're not talking about anything complex here, yet our research suggests that gaps developed in the crucial early years of understanding leave young people unequipped for everyday situations in later life, including how to make the most of their money."

State of the nation

These concerning findings are perhaps indicative of the fact that, in 2013, 42% of pupils failed to achieve at least a grade C in GCSE maths(2), contributing to the 17 million adults in the UK identified by National Numeracy as having the numeracy skills expected of an eleven year old.

Should I stay or should I go?

While many of those surveyed are well aware of their mathematical shortcomings, rather than resolving to improve them while in education, they would prefer to stop studying maths altogether. Of those who would, given the choice, not study to GCSE level, a total of 76% said they either simply "couldn't do maths" (31%) or they "found it boring" (45%) - even though 89% recognised its relevance to life after school.

The gender divide

While 83% of girls said they would wish to maintain English as a GCSE option, even if it were not compulsory, only 72% said the same about maths. In comparison, only 74% of boys said they would wish to maintain studies in English. They viewed maths as more important, with 78% wanting to continue a Maths GCSE, even if it were not compulsory.

What would youngsters change?

More than half of the young people polled believed that school maths lessons could be improved by being more interactive (54%) and using practical, real-life examples (50%). Almost half (48%) believed their lessons would have benefitted from better use of technology.

The Talking Numbers difference

Taking their feedback on board, Nationwide's Talking Numbers programme offers a varied range of initiatives, designed in conjunction with teachers and other expert partners such as the Transformation Trust, to develop skills both inside and outside of school, in order to tackle the root causes of poor understanding and improve employability.

A sample of the activities include -


--  Rock Clubs making maths real and engaging, featuring DJs and musicians
    to create a virtual concert, with the possibility of attending a real
    one
--  MoneyLIVE! providing teenagers with the chance to tour a full size
    virtual village to learn about keeping safe both personally and
    financially
--  Breakfast clubs for ten and eleven year olds in schools where over 30%
    of students receive free school meals
--  One to one support with Nationwide staff volunteering to support
    numeracy skills in primary schools
--  All underpinned by Nationwide Education, which since 2007 has offered
    free resources to teachers, parents and children to download to support
    and complement their classroom learning. Last year the site saw around
    600,000 such downloads

Stephen concludes: "This lack of everyday number skills not only threatens the economy but can also ruin young people's individual chances in later life.

"Nationwide's Talking Numbers programme provides long term, tangible and innovative support to enable 200,000 young people to improve their skills and capability, making a positive difference to their future. It is providing foundations for crucial life skills, delivered in the ways that young people have told us they want to learn them. Our work here is practical, fundamental and at the heart of our mutual difference."

Notes to editors:

(1) Survey conducted by Researchbods amongst 2000 Year 8 and Year 9 students between 24th January and 3rd February 2014.

(2) According to figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications.

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million members.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 15,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

Find recent press releases and photos at the Nationwide Media Centre: www.nationwide.co.uk/mediacentre

Twitter: @NationwidePress

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/NationwideBSocietyUK

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