A new study from Matalan shows which skills and subjects adults wish they had been taught in school

With education set for a turbulent winter, Matalan wanted to know what core subjects and skills people already feel they missed out on in school. To find out, they surveyed 1000 Brits, worked with The Open University to find out their most popular free courses during lockdown and analysed YouTube search data to find out what people are teaching themselves.  

The findings of the study show there are key areas of life as an adult that people feel school simply doesn’t prepare them for. While core subjects like English and maths are incredibly important, many people feel there is a need for education on things that have a real-world application.

The study shows adults feel their formal education left them woefully unprepared for the real world, with money management, self-confidence and mental health management being top of the list people think should be taught in schools.

These are the 10 skills and subjects people in the North East wish they’d been taught in school:

Rank Subject Percent
1 Self-confidence & mental health management 64%
2 Money management & investing 68%
3 Critical thinking skills 24%
4 Public speaking 30%
5 Coding & graphic design 22%
6 Conflict management 26%
7 Relationship values 14%
8 Creating positive relationships with food 20%
9 Internet safety 8%
10 Gender and LGBTQ+ education 12%

81% of Brits want mental health management & self-confidence skills to be on the curriculum

81% of people overall felt lessons on self-confidence and looking after our mental health should be part of the curriculum. With mental health issues coming to the forefront in recent years, and the current Coronavirus crisis posing an even greater risk to the nation’s mental health, it’s perhaps not surprising that so many people feel mental health education should be normalised in schools. The study found that 35-44 year olds are most in need of lessons in self-confidence and how to look after their mental health with 85% saying they wish this had been on the curriculum. This is compared to 58% of 16-24 year olds and 61% of over 55s.

Many people are turning to YouTube to teach themselves self-confidence skills and mental health management, with 167,680 searches a month for ‘mental health’ and 20,720 ‘self-confidence’.

The fear of public speaking affects around 73% of the population but having the confidence and skills to speak up in front of an audience, whether that’s a packed auditorium or a boardroom of colleagues, is a valuable skill. It seems that the younger generation recognises this even more so than their older counterparts, with 41% of 16-24 year olds saying they wish public speaking had been on the curriculum when they were in school, compared to 21% of 25-34 year olds and 22% of people over 55

25% of parents with primary school-aged children wish they’d had relationship education

Relationship education is set to become compulsory for all school children from September 2020 but the government’s plans have recently been met with opposition from many parents. Interestingly, Matalan’s study found that 32% of 25-34 year olds wish their formal school education had included lessons on relationship values, as did 25% of parents with primary school-aged children. This is in contrast to just 8% of 16-24 year olds and 13% of over 55s.

The study also shows that 17% of 16-24 year olds want to see sex education include gender studies and LGBTQ+ issues, despite the growing pressure to remove it from schools.

67% of Brits wish they’d been taught about money management at school

The study found that 67% of people overall and a staggering 91% of 16-24 year olds saying they feel they should have been taught money management skills at school, it’s clear the maths curriculum as it stands leaves a lot to be desired. The money management skills our respondents said they wish they’d been taught include how to apply for a mortgage, how to apply for and manage credit and how to create and maintain a budget.