Given a run for their money
With the credit crunch biting on a global and personal level, what better time to tackle financial competency issues?
Bill, Penny, Quid and Dollar Sterling - West Lothian's answer to the Simpsons - lead pupils and teachers through the mine-field of taxation, credit and debit, value for money, and other monetary matters.
The fictional family lives in Springdale - a name invented by their creators, Greg Welsh, deputy head of Springfield Primary, and Gillian Learmonth, principal teacher of Falla Hill Primary.
Save with the Sterlings, their first financial education resource, for P4-5, was piloted in their schools and distributed to all the authority's primaries. Their second pack, The Sterlings - Holiday Abroad, for P7-S1, should be ready by the summer, and next year they hope to produce an early years pack.
Their timing is serendipitous, coinciding with a new focus on financial education in the numeracy draft outcomes and experiences for A Curriculum for Excellence.
The authors, who have collaborated on enterprise education materials in the past, have tied their Sterling packs in with the 5-14 guidelines, but ensure that their references to financial capability chime with the four Curriculum for Excellence capacities, the national priorities and Determined to Succeed.
They chose a storyline approach, featuring a fictional family, to give all pupils ownership of the characters. Falla Hill Primary is in an area of social deprivation and Mrs Learmonth wanted to ensure pupils did not have to talk about their own family circumstances.
The activities, however, relate to real life. One, for instance, asks pupils to compare the costs and value for money of three mobile phone packages; another introduces them to the principles and workings of a credit union.
The forthcoming pack - containing six activities for the final term of P7 and one for the first week of personal and social education in S1 - explores everything from exchange rates to the need for financial protection when Penny's case goes missing and she and Bill have to resort to using credit cards on holiday.
It also teaches pupils that a quick fix is not always the best solution: Quid (the spendthrift daughter) spends less money on holiday, but ends up with less in her pocket than her more tightfisted brother Dollar, because she has paid commission to change her sterling into dollars, and then back again.
"There's lots of group work and paired research," says Mr Welsh, "and we've tried to enhance the use of technology through it. But the resource can be used in any school, regardless of its situation."
It also ticks lots of Curriculum for Excellence boxes, offering challenge and enjoyment, active learning, feedback, and breadth of learning.
"With the current financial situation - in Britain and globally - it is very relevant that children leave us, even in primary school, with an understanding of what credit and debt are," he says, "and how they can achieve a sound financial understanding by the time they get to their early or late teens."
The teachers tried to introduce some "money phrases" into the P4-5 pack's vocabulary, and asked the children the meaning of the phrase "save it for a rainy day".
"They took it literally and thought it meant using money to pay for an outing on a rainy day to a place that was sheltered from the rain," says Mr Welsh.
Mrs Learmonth describes how disturbing she found it when a P7 boy in her school, when asked to do an activity involving money, hid his head in his hands and cried: "I cannae dae it, I cannae dae money."
"Hopefully, this will never happen to another pupil because of the resource we have written," she says.
For more information: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. For copies of 'Save with the Sterlings', contact West Lothian Council's education department.