Learning everyday consumer skills – a teachers' toolkit
In 2008, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) produced several practical web-based toolkits for teachers to use to improve consumer education. 'Skilled to go' helped to develop literacy and numeracy alongside consumer knowledge. It provided consumers with the skills and knowledge to ‘function confidently, effectively and responsibly when buying goods and services’.
The innovative toolkits to support ‘Skilled to go’ aimed to:
- develop learners’ consumer skills
- develop learners’ consumer knowledge
- increase learners’ confidence to make consumer choices and decisions
- develop learners’ literacy or numeracy skills in line with the relevant curriculum.
The modules cover everyday consumer situations, such as using a mobile phone, writing a letter of complaint, buying something on the internet or deciding whether to switch energy providers. In July 2010, the range of modules was extended to include scams and buying and running a car.
The toolkits are regularly updated and are all free to download from Citizens Advice's consumer education website.
The OFT stressed that ‘Skilled to go’ was not intended to be used by teachers to offer consumer advice to learners about their individual circumstances. Students are encouraged to use the information provided and carryout additional personal research, alongside the consumer skills being developed so that they can make choices for themselves that are appropriate for their own circumstances.
OFT lists the consumer skills they aim to develop. These include the ability to:
'Consumer education can improve research, comparison and decision-making skills, improve communication skills and raise awareness of sources of help'
Quote from OFT Strategy for 'Skilled to go'
- search relevant information to help make consumer choices
- consider personal needs and preferences before making a consumer decision
- analyse the features of consumer goods and services to identify their pros and cons
- compare consumer goods or services to make the best choice for individual circumstances
- identify sources to help to deal with consumer problems or handle problems effectively.
The toolkits are tailored for each consumer issue and include templates and pro formas. There are a range of suggested activities and useful materials that can be downloaded and adapted.
Students are encouraged to discuss key rights and responsibilities, find out where to get support and advice, role-play different scenarios and learn what to do if things go wrong. The modules often include the use of video to illustrate different situations.
The toolkits also encourages the use of authentic and local materials that are relevant to learners’ interests and needs.
There are versions of ‘Skilled to go’ for adult education, secondary education and local authority Trading Standards Services to use on school visits. There is also guidance on using ‘Skilled to go’ to support financial learning.
Teachers were consulted on the format, organisation, design, branding and distribution of the toolkits, and piloted the units prior to their launch.
OFT offered free workshops for teachers to learn more about 'Skilled to go' activities and how to access the online materials.
The modules were developed in partnership with LLU+ at London South Bank University
Updated April 2013