Yes – and Early Years is the time to start, says headteacher Joy Ingram
Prior to being a head, I taught mainly in Early Years. My interest in finance education comes from seeing first-hand just how hard the concept of money is for four- and five-year-olds to grasp. Give them a two or five pence coin and they’ll acknowledge that they only have one coin – it’s hard to break down that single coin and teach them that its value is actually two, five or ten pence.
It made me realise the importance of starting money and financial talk really early. We’re a very rural primary school based in North Lancashire, in between Lancaster and Kirby Lonsdale on the Cumbrian border. Our general pupil intake is only around nine children per year coming into Reception. We currently have 74 children on roll in total, and have four classes of mixed age groups – nursery, Reception and Y1-6.
Our finance education starts in a very practical way at Early Years, setting aside areas for roleplaying shop scenarios. We don’t necessarily use the maths curriculum, but more our PSHE curriculum, structured so that each year groups studies certain concepts. We begin by asking, ‘What is money and where does it come from?’ before considering, ‘Can we afford to buy certain things?’
We then move on to looking at how we use money, save it and earn it. The older classes explore issues around paying taxes, spending money wisely and lending money. Our Y5 and 6 children are ‘rota kids’, which means they work with our local Carnforth Rotary Club. They do a great job of fundraising – looking at genuine needs and causes and thinking about what they can do, as a group of children, to raise money and make a difference to other people’s lives.
I believe finance education is hugely important. Money has its place within the maths curriculum, and we do teach it in that way – but by also doing it through the PSHE curriculum, we’re asking the children to consider deeper, more meaningful questions.
They’re growing up in what’s almost a throwaway society, where they regularly see adverts for credit cards and are used to the idea of debt. We want them to understand what that actually means. There’s a great responsibility that comes with earning and having money, and I think the sooner you start sowing those seeds, the better.
Our work was recently recognised at the Personal Finance Teacher of the Year Competition, organised by the magazine Moneywise. We won in the primary school category and were awarded £3,250. We’ll be using the prize to give each of our children between £1 and £5, setting them the task of getting a return on their money by the end of the year. They may choose to do something on their own, work collaboratively in a small group, pool it as a class – however they do it, we want them thinking about how they can become entrepreneurs.
To others wanting to try something similar, I’d recommend making your finance education practical and relevant, and trying to link it to either a theme or topic you’re doing in school, or any support you might already be providing to community groups. The more real you can make it, the more the children will see the reasons for doing it.
Joy Ingram is headteacher of Arkholme Church of England Primary in Arkholme, Lancashire.
This article first featured in our sister title Primary School Management. Find out more at primaryleaders.com