Sir Mervyn King - Quantitative easing for beginners

What do you ask the 11th most important person in the world of finance? That's the kind of question that business journalists like me ask ourselves all the time.

But for the eight students who met Sir Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, for BBC News School Report the question was obvious.

As 13-year-old Gloria from Bonus Pastor Catholic College in South London put it: "What do you need to do to get into the top 10?"

She got a laugh but also a very good answer.

"I don't have an interest in getting in the top 10 only in doing my job..." Sir Mervyn started, a pretty standard response.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Sir Mervyn King: "I don't think I expected the financial crisis that we've just been through"

But he then went on: "...to do that it is very important to learn the lessons of history. I would say one of the most important things about this crisis has not been to pretend that you can understand it without going back to what happened in the past.

"This is not the first crisis in the world economy or in our financial and banking system and we can learn most about why it happened and what to do to put it right by going back to the lessons of history."

That is a better answer than I have ever got out of Sir Mervyn and it wasn't the only one.

"Wouldn't it be a simple solution to just print more money to help our country recover more quickly?" - a question from Adrien, aged 12, from Bonus Pastor, got possibly the best explanation of quantitative easing I have ever heard.

In short Sir Mervyn said that for almost every year of his life the banks were creating too much money and it was the Bank of England's job to slow them down by raising interest rates.

But for the last three years that has been reversed. "Banks have been destroying money and we have actually had to create more... to ensure that the economy continues to grow and we create new jobs."

It wasn't all that easy for the governor to explain. He faced some tough questions on his pay, he admitted that the job had been much harder than he expected and told Poppy, aged 12 from West Bridgford School in Nottingham that when he retires next year the first thing he is going to do is take three months off.

The question was a much more Paxmanesque: "When you retire how will you deal with the loss of power and status?"

Image copyright Other
Image caption Preparing their questions, the School Reporters gear up for their interview with Sir Mervyn King

But perhaps the line that will grab the headlines was Sir Mervyn's response to a question about how he dealt with the pressure of his job.

"It is demanding in terms of time and it is tiring... but I don't think it is pressure. I mean being unemployed with a family to support that's pressure, that's real pressure," he said.

"Being Governor of the Bank of England is easy in comparison with that."

Not what you expect to hear from the 11th most powerful man in the world of finance, and for the record that was the response to another question from Gloria.

And you can hear a full report on Sir Mervyn's interview on the World Tonight at 10pm on BBC Radio 4