It’s been a couple of years since we first started working with Inspirational Youth to develop Money Matters, our interactive, game-based education session. At the start of the 2016-2017 academic year, we really felt ready to start rolling out this programme on a wider scale. Armed with a few kit-bags full of Money Matters games, some willing volunteers, a handful of key partners who donated their time and office space, and a few schools ready to take the plunge with us, we went out to see if what we had created would work with classes of primary school children!
Over the course of the year we held 11 Money Matters education days, teaching over four hundred students. This included running two extended days with two schools in Enfield, where we brought the Money Matters experience to all of their year 6 students in the course of one school day.
So, what did we learn last year that will make us even better prepared this year?
Kids love it, teachers love it
One of the best things about Money Matters is how much fun it is for both the teachers and students. Every teacher who has brought a class to a Money Matters session has ended up either building towers, throwing darts, or playing cards with the students. For anyone taking a session, the fact that you’re helping the children play games and teaching them how to manage (and make!) money at the same time changes the dynamic in the classroom.
You can always improve
Money Matters is all about learning as you go. As the students play all the various games, they learn how each one can help them save or grow their money most effectively. No-one starts out with a winning strategy, but most of the classes get there by the end of the day. We’ve learned that we can always improve as well. Games are a great way to try to illustrate complicated concepts such as risk and reward, and compound interest. However, the games need to be easy to play and easy to explain to a primary school class. It’s been an important learning point for us, understanding where to strike the balance between being able to demonstrate complex ideas in a simple manner. This has been helped no end by the interaction with teachers and students who have provided constant feedback.
There’s no “right answer” – but this doesn’t change the learning outcomes
You can always pick a winner at the end of a Money Matters day: who managed to grow their money the most over the course of the day? However, Money Matters isn’t all about winning. One of the most surprising things about it is that everyone has a different approach. While the winners are often those who save the money they’re not spending, and take advantage of the games which demonstrate the power of compound interest, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, the winner took a lot more risk than their friends, and it paid off! Perhaps they got lucky, perhaps they were very good at the high-risk games. But really, it doesn’t matter. The key is that they understand why some things worked and some things didn’t. Sure, you made the most money, but how risky was your strategy? What was the chance you would lose your money? Would you expect the same outcome if you were to play again? There’s no right way to play Money Matters, as long as the students end up with a better understanding of what they need to consider when managing their money.
What’s next for Money Matters?
We’ve got lots of great stories from Money Matters days of how the students have approached the games, what’s worked, and what hasn’t. We’ve learned just as much as they have, if not more! However, we want to make sure that we keep up the momentum and make the most of what we’ve learned. So, what do we do next?
Can we measure our impact?
Great stories are all very well, but we know that to prove the impact that Money Matters has on young people, we need to start quantitatively measuring our impact. How many more volunteers, partners and schools could we convince to join the mission of providing financial education to young people if we had evidence that it works? Could we convince the government to make financial education a part of the primary school curriculum?
Unfortunately, this isn’t an easy task. How do you prove that you have changed financial habits for the better? RedSTART volunteers have been working and sharing ideas with as many like-minded people as possible to find a solution. MyBnk, the Money Advice Service, Young Enterprise, and many more are all working on the same problem, and we want to make sure all of their experience and knowledge in this area gets put to use.
What if teachers taught Money Matters in class?
We know that teachers enjoy Money Matters sessions as much as the students, and we have tried to constantly improve the material so that it is as effective as possible. We then asked the question: what if teachers could pick up this ready-made material and use it in the classroom? How many more students could benefit from financial education? It’s a big next step, getting buy-in from teachers to work financial education into their curriculum: how do we make this easy for teachers?
Again, it’s not an easy task. However, we hope that armed with everything we have learned over the past year, and through our ongoing engagement with the schools and teachers we work with, we’ll be able to bring Money Matters and financial education to even more young people across the UK. There are hurdles to get over, but if we can find a way to bring financial education into the classroom in a way that’s just as much fun for the teachers as the students, then what’s not to like?