At Strategy 2002, industry leaders called for better education. Now the CII wants to introduce insurance into schools. Elliot Lane reports

Back in November last year, a clarion cry for improved skills and public education was sounded by industry leaders at Insurance Times Strategy 2002. The dearth of young, talented people entering the insurance industry weighs heavily on the minds of many. Words like grey, boring and tedious are still synonymous with the industry.

In recent years the CII and various professional bodies have discussed the possibility of introducing an insurance-related examination into the national curriculum. It has been a common theme in the round of government commissioned reviews on financial services that consumer education must be improved.

CII director general Sandy Scott says: "All the reviews, such as Pickering, Sandler, the Tiner Project and the numerous FSA consultation papers, have put forward a remit concerning consumer understanding. Over the past few years we have introduced certain online tools for the industry. The NVQ that has been introduced has been developed to be very interactive.

"So when you think about consumer education, it is about educating a generation, not just for consumers now."

Action should be taken, according to Scott, at the earliest stage - kindergarten - to educate young children on the basic, fundamental issues surrounding insurance and financial services. "We can provide Jack and Jill-style information that school kids can play with and IT interaction allowing them to understand IT literacy, numeracy and then put financial education into that process," Scott says.

The CII already publishes 60 textbooks on industry-related subjects and Scott feels confident it can publish simple texts based on the traditional children's Ladybird format.

His vision, and it may seem outlandish at first, is to finally incorporate a GSCE or A-level grade insurance examination into the national curriculum. But why not?

AXA Insurance chief executive Peter Hubbard says: "I think it's a fantastic idea. My only doubt is whether we can get it into the schools. It's all about life skills, part of the way we protect ourselves."

Hubbard's view is backed up by ex-Groupama chief executive, now head of new healthcare insurer FirstAssist, Tim Ablett.

"I think getting the insurance message into schools is an excellent idea. While I was at Groupama, Paul Picknett and I often talked about trying to do more in the university milk round, so we could get through to 17- and 18-year-olds."

With a shortage of maths teachers already hampering the education system, could a purely insurance focused examination be taught?

Scott says: "We have a lot of core competencies at the CII. We are already a large examining and awarding body in the industry, and there is no reason why we can't examine and award in schools."

An A-level in insurance as a pure discipline might be slightly over-ambitious. Norwich Union (NU) intermediary business director

Ken Wallace says: "I admire the PR element of the idea to make the public think about insurance.

"But I think any insurance taught subject should be tagged to the sexier image of finance. Kids are interested in investments, wealth management and money lending so why not make part of this examination have insurance as a compulsory module," says Wallace.

Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA)
UK chief executive Duncan Boyle says: "I think that the idea in principle has a lot of merit. But an insurance exam as its own subject is too intense. It may have to be incorporated in a wider financial services course."

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