Money talks have rich rewards

A financial education officer who speaks to pupils about spending, borrowing and saving is worth the investment, says Jackie Cosh

Jackie Cosh

Getting children interested in money may seem easy. Explaining the difference between a credit and debit card, when many adults treat them as interchangeable, takes a bit longer.

This was the task assigned to Pamela Fraser when she became financial education officer for Dumfries and Galloway Council in November 2009. With 18 years in banking behind her and a determination not to spend another 18 years in it, she was the perfect candidate for the new role.

Ms Fraser's job involves visiting the 103 primaries and 16 secondaries in the local authority, speaking to pupils from nursery up to S6 about money, borrowing and saving. With workshops based around the numeracy and money outcomes from the curriculum, and bringing in aspects of social sciences, she soon has them clued up on interest rates, store cards and budgeting.

The day starts with a visit to Lochmaben Primary to speak to the P7s. Ms Fraser first visited the school three years ago and has been back every year since.

"After the first year we were really taken by it and asked if it was continuing," says P7 teacher Sarah Stankiewicz. "It really ties in with Curriculum for Excellence - money in the workplace. It is relevant to real life and the kids really enjoyed it. They can relate back to it when they go up to the academy and learn about bank accounts and loans."

Today's workshop is the first of a series of three workshops called Money Talks. It starts with learning about the history of money and which countries first introduced coins (Turkey) and bank notes (China), as well as discovering what our notes are made of (cotton) and why Australian bank notes are made of plastic (a group of surfers petitioned the Australian government to make bank notes they would keep in their pockets when in the water).

The difference between debit cards, credit cards, store cards and loyalty cards confuses pupils to an extent, but Ms Fraser is often surprised at how much they know.

"Kids of eight or nine know more than I did at that age," she says, as she recalls a young boy who came up to tell her that it was a good time to take out a variable-rate mortgage.

But, aware that their information is often patchy, she is keen to help them join up the dots. "Some may come from families where they have had money worries," says Ms Fraser. "They need to think about when it is right to use a credit card."

During the session she throws questions at the pupils, but they also make their way through the workbooks, which are popular with them.

"They really like the workbooks," says Mrs Stankiewicz. "They learn so much. We talk about the sessions afterwards, but that is it. We could write a report or even share it with the rest of the school but at the same time that would spoil it for the P6s."

After a quick bite for lunch we are off to Laurieknowe Primary in Dumfries. The P6s here are on to the second part of the workshop, and in an exercise designed to make them think about spending habits, they have to name three things which are wants, rather than needs.

Part two delves into interest rates and a budgeting exercise. "Everything we do has a budget," says Ms Fraser. "The school has a budget; your teacher has a budget."

P6 teacher Margaret Turnbull says: "We have been doing `working with money' in class. We have covered menu maths, the cost in different shops, as well as bills, so this fits in well. The feedback I had from the last session was that they found it really interesting, particularly the bit about debit and credit cards. They knew about them but didn't know the difference. Pamela is really good. It is a child-friendly way of getting the point across."

The final session consists of a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?-type quiz with pupils answering questions on keypads, and a first, second and third prize awarded.

Feedback from parents has been positive, although some might not appreciate the probing questions that sometimes ensue or their child's request to see a bank statement.



A programme for P1-3 pupils, which links to the Level 1 money outcomes under numeracy in Curriculum for Excellence. Pupils identify coins, and banknotes, learn about making up change and begin to think about saving money. The workshop is fun and interactive and involves the children in games and activities to help bring money alive for them.


An introduction to managing a budget aimed at P4-7 pupils. The programme looks at the income and expenditure of the "Coin" family, and challenges the pupils to consider what monies Granny, Mr and Mrs Coin, and Penny and Poppy have to spend and what they need to spend it on. Identifying needs and wants, the children then participate in their own budgeting challenge.

Roles in a company

This workshop is designed to be used in conjunction with primary enterprise projects. It's a one-off session which focuses on the various jobs of people in a company and their role in manufacturing a product. This is a basic introduction to business, aimed at P4-7 pupils, and can be tailored to reflect the particular product being manufactured by the school.

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Jackie Cosh

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