Personal finance

20th October 2000 at 01:00
CHILDREN'S MONEY WORLD. www.childrensmoneyworld. com

MONEY COUNTS: developing financial capability in the primary school. First copy issued by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority free to initial teacher training providers, local authorities and schools. Otherwise pound;10 plus pamp;p Published for the Financial Services Authority by BEAM. 020 7684 3330.

The introduction of personal finance education in primary schools heralds new teaching resources designed specifically for this aspect of citizenship. Children's Money world is a website-based publication that makes educational resources accessible from home or classroom, exploring UK, US and other currencies. Children's Money World advocates introducing children from nine months upwards to concepts of money.

Unfortunately, the material is not strong enough. The currency characters at the heart of the concept are adult creations and the games are really multiple-choice questions on equivalent value. The sample stories, "Sausages and Cherry Cakes" for four toseven-year-olds, and "Counting the Pennies" suffer by comparison with modern print media. While the website concept is good, the initial content needs further work.

Money Counts is an extraordinary new teaching resource, with powerful financial backers. The QCA has already distributed free copies to all primary schools. Howard Davies, FSA chairman, ex-director of the CBI and former deputy governor of the Bank of England, uses his prface to highlight the importance of an early start towards financial literacy.

Money Counts asks primary schools to help children acquire financial capability within the three strands of understanding, competence and responsibility. The content overview is annotated in terms of adult financial experiences that this work is designed to support.

At key stage 1, children are to be introduced to spending (no problem there), concepts of value and the beginnings of financial records. Key stage 2 takes us into rather more uncharted territory, discussing pensions, benefits, insurance and budgeting. There is mention of good and bad debt within an exploration of credit that will ring many staffroom bells.

The book is well-conceived, well-drafted, and user-friendly. There are matrices linking financial capability with the numeracy strategy, PSHE and citizenship curricula. For each year group from reception to Year 6, there are three well-structured lesson activities involving the practicalities of money. There are also extended projects for KS1 and KS2.

From expensive school uniforms to advertising on notebooks, from free school meals to crisp packets for books, children are surrounded by evidence of money or its scarcity. Money Counts includes reminders that teachers need to be sensitive to pupils' individual circumstances. Rightly or wrongly, this publication furthers the trend for realism in education to outweigh political sensitivity.

Jon O'Connor

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