How can we embed financial education into school communities?

What makes financial education for young people a worthwhile cause for teachers and parents? Co-Head of Strategy, Tom Pilcher, caught up with Upton Cross Primary School Assistant Headteacher Katie Edwards.

 

  1. Katie, you are the Assistant Headteacher at Upton Cross Primary School. What do you love most about your job?

Ever since I was 5 years old I always wanted to work with children. The thing I love most about working with children is that I am dealing with the next generation. These children are hopefully going to grow up to be the next doctors, lawyers, teachers, and maybe even the next Prime Minister! This is also a challenge, because we are preparing children for a world that we have no idea about. Teaching kids life skills like motivation, communication and resilience is really important for helping kids become lifelong learners. But overall this is an exciting prospect!

I am also really lucky to be in the senior leadership team. I’m able not only to work with children but also with young teachers who are new in their career to increase their confidence in the classroom.

  1.  Your school has signed up to several financial education workshops. What are these like?

We’ve been really fortunate that all our children in Year 5 and 6 have attended a financial education workshop. These workshops are delivered in a really fun, interactive and age-appropriate way that teach key messages about financial planning. It’s great to see how there is a real buzz when a class comes back to school – they are really keen to talk about the workshops with their friends and their parents!

The workshops we have visited have been held in volunteers’ offices. It has visibly raised the children’s aspirations to come into the City and see experience a professional workplace. They also get an opportunity to develop new role models, especially male role models, as there aren’t enough in primary schools.

  1.  Teachers seem to be under more time pressure than ever. Tell us why you prioritised taking your kids out of the classroom to learn about compound interest, budgeting etc?

As a school, we have a real passion to provide children with as many opportunities as possible that aren’t classroom-based. For example, as a school we think it’s really important for all children in Key Stage 2 to learn a musical instrument and all kids to have the opportunity to go to the theatre.

And similarly, we think it is really important for children to learn about maths in the real world, because that’s when it becomes real. In the classroom, a lot of the children who struggle with maths, or don’t like maths, don’t realise how embedded it is in the real world. We don’t know what future our children are going to have, but we do know that finance and money is getting more and more relevant for children as they move towards adult life. So we need to make this as relevant as possible so that we can help kids develop good financial habits early on. If parents don’t have good financial habits to pass on to their children it becomes a vicious circle, so we need to do something about that.

  1.  What would you say to a teacher who didn’t really get this whole financial education thing?

As teachers, we need to understand that children are faced with far more financial responsibility than we ever were. Younger and younger kids now have phone contracts. Children these days are completely surrounded by consumer advertising. And who knows how much it will cost the 5-year-olds of today to go to university? We wouldn’t be doing our jobs as teachers if we just taught them to read and write – we need to prepare them for adult life by teaching them to be financially literate.

What’s more, our experience at Upton Cross is that it is not only the children’s eyes opened to these money management concepts. Our children have gone back home after a workshop and told their parents who have actually been educated through their children. One parent told me that they were told off by their child for keeping all their money under the mattress and have since opened a savings account. The work we do as teachers can have a real impact on the whole community.

  1.  As a teacher, how would you go about teaching this yourself?

It is without a doubt a lot harder to teach financial education these days. There is so much pressure from the government to raise standards in reading, writing and maths which means there is now much less flexibility in the curriculum. So there needs to be real buy-in from schools’ senior leadership teams to incentivise teachers to fit this into their busy schedules, and parents need to feel satisfied that this teaching is of value.

For us, teaching financial education starts right from the early years. When the children are in nursery and reception we set up roleplays – we might pretend the children are in a shop or a post office. At this point we are just introducing the concept of money and whether you do or don’t have enough money to buy something.

As the children get older we teach them more about the value of money. For example, £5 for a child is a lot of money, but £5 for an adult isn’t as much money. If a child is receiving £1 a week, they will need to save a long time before they will be able to buy their own hatchimal toy!

  1.  Ok, so if financial education for young people is so important, what would a “financially secure school community” look like for you?

For me, a financially secure school community looks like all the stakeholders – teachers, parents, governors and the wider school community – really believing in the importance of financial security. That doesn’t just mean that teachers and parents are engaged in teaching young people. It also means that they engage in bettering their own money management skills.

We need to empower our children to make their own financial decisions at a young age, within the safety of the school community. This will equip them to make sensible decisions when they go into the real world.

 

If you’re interested in giving children the tools for building a secure financial future, do please get in touch. RedSTART offers high-impact financial education teaching materials free of charge. We have recently made our tried-and-tested material available online, available for teachers to use.