The money-go-round

25th November 2005 at 00:00
A culture cafe has brought home the issues of financial education for one primary school, writes Su Clark

Haggling over money and how much people may be willing to pay is common among adults but for pupils at Dowanhill Primary, in Glasgow, dealing with cash was a new experience.

Their quandary was how much to charge at the school's culture cafe, an enterprise project with ethical aims.

"The Scottish Executive asked us to pilot a scheme on ethical enterprise,"

says the headteacher, Wilma MacDonald. "We had been looking at ethical issues such as Unicef's Charter on the Rights of the Child and so we discussed it with the children, through the pupils' forum. They came up with the idea of a culture cafe."

Now, the school runs a cafe one afternoon per term, themed around one culture. The first was a Scottish cafe, providing drinks and shortbread to visitors, plus entertainment such as Scottish dancing, singing and poetry reading. Other cafes have been focused on Chinese culture and another had a Caribbean flavour.

Monies raised are divided between chosen charities, including Unicef, the tsunami and Pakistan relief funds, the Glasgow City Mission and the school.

Besides helping to promote an understanding of charity, enterprise, ethical trading and diversity, the culture cafe has also proved to be an ideal opening for financial education.

Before the children could decide how much to charge people, they had to understand what money actually meant.

"Many children were used to seeing their parents paying for things with plastic cards or taking money out of the bank," says Mrs MacDonald. "They were not aware where money came from or how it had to be earned."

The pupils soon discovered that organising a culture cafe within school was not restricted to arranging a few chairs and sorting out clean cups.

Planning the enterprise is done in clusters of two or three classes, with responsibilities divided out among the rest of the school. One class will do the projects, another will serve the teas, a third will collect money and show people to their seats.

By using the entrance fee as a starting point, teachers were able to discuss with pupils what value money had. How much would it be fair to charge visitors? Pupils had to weigh up the costs involved with what it would be fair to charge people.

Their decision of what to charge parents for unlimited good quality coffee or tea and homemade cakes was just part of the planning for the cafes but it was an important part.

The final decision was to offer different seating, so those with the best view paid the premium rate of pound;2; the rest pound;1.50.

Pupils also had to consider up-front costs and overheads. As it was an ethical enterprise, the children decided that all the teas and coffees served had to be Fair Trade, giving teachers another opportunity to talk about where produce comes from and who profits from it.

The pupils also had to understand about borrowing and debt, as they had to pay for raw materials upfront, introducing an element of risk. P3 pupils learned this at a cost: their coconut crunch was a disaster.

"They had a wonderful time weighing up and mixing ingredients, following a Caribbean recipe, but it didn't go firm. The class spent pound;12 on ingredients. They recognised it went to waste. But it was an experience,"

says Mrs MacDonald.

Financial education is now entrenched within the school and children are more conscious of what money is and what it means to different cultures.

Mrs MacDonald is keen to cash in on this new interest and has invited the parent of one child to the school to explain the Islamic attitude: Muslims are not supposed to borrow money from commercial enterprises, such as banks, where interest is charged.

"Most of our children are now aware that they can contribute to towards their parents' finances by not being too greedy or wasteful," says Mrs MacDonald.

"I think we made a mistake at the first culture cafe by charging for food and drink separately. It was clever to charge a bit more on the ticket and have food and drink included. We had more time for the entertainment."

Dannika Channer

"It was really good that we earned money to reduce the price of the end-of-term trips. Everyone got to go and it was fun. It only cost pound;5 for me to go to Loudoun Castle but if Mum had taken my brother and me, it would have cost pound;50."

John Bell

"It was good that the Chinese shopkeepers gave us fortune cookies and free food for our Chinese culture cafe. It helped us raise more money for Unicef. They got publicity too."

Anna Chung

"I noticed the financial planning on the ticket prices. I think it was right to charge pound;2 for the best places because people like value for money."

Baldeep Sanghera

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