Making allowances;Interview;Ann Barclay;Primary

10th April 1998 at 01:00
Ann Barclay tells Kathryn Kohlabout the school post office

Once a week the 29 children in my mixed Year 12 class go to the post office to collect their family allowance. No, we've not been hit by a wave of pre-pubescent pregnancies - the post office is a classroom project used for topic work based on Allan and Janet Ahlberg's The Jolly Postman.

The book is brilliant for teaching traditional tales and rhymes with which many of the children aren't familiar. But the post office element also doubles as an important part of our maths work and helps them develop social skills. Some introductory work ensured the children could continue independently.

We visited a local post office to watch people pick up their pensions and allowances, and learned that payments differed according to people's ages and dependants. The children posted cards and weighed parcels, paying for stamps themselves and bringing me the change.

Back in class, no one opted to be very old. Most chose to collect family allowance to support their babies in the home corner.

When asked what else people did at the post office, they all said, "You get sweets."

I checked children's ability to count to 100, recognise coins and use money. Then we worked in groups, identifying coins by the numerals and other features and - for one partially-sighted child - by touch, estimating the value of bags of coins and counting to 100, swapping 1p coins for 10p pieces and 10p coins for pound;1, weighing parcels and matching values to items in the shop.

Our postmasters and mistresses greet customers as Mr and Mrs, and help them with their purchases. To receive their money, children sign the big book and have their pension or family allowance book stamped. Year 1s get pound;1 in 10p coins, and Year 2s get pound;2 in 10p and 50p coins. We use cardboard coins in the post office, but real ones for table work. Goods are priced in units of 10, and children can buy note-pads, cards, envelopes and stamps, or post parcels.

If they want to write to someone in class, they copy the address from the map on the display board.

Ann Barclay teaches a mixed Year 12 class at Rawthorpe C of E infant and nursery school, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

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