Save the children's money

13th January 1995 at 00:00
Harvey McGavin talks to Ian Duffell, a man who spends his time wisely teaching youngsters about finance. Who wants to be a millionaire? Lottery winners are not the only people who pick up a seven-figure sum. Most younger teachers are on modest salaries, but during the course of their working lives more than a million pounds may pass through their hands.

It takes years and years to earn that much, but how long do people actually spend learning to manage their money? Not long enough, says Ian Duffell, who believes that financial arrangements are all too often left to chance.

Ian, a former bank manager, is entering his third year on secondment from Barclaycard to the Centre for Citizenship Studies, based at Leicester University's School of Education.

The CFCS was established in 1991 after the then Speaker of the House of Commons, Bernard Weatherill, set up a Commission to look at the subject. Research funded by the centre has since revealed that money management is the topic that people in their mid-twenties most wish they had been taught more about at school.

Education for Citizenship is now a requirement under the 1988 Education Reform Act and, as the centre's director, Professor Ken Fogelman, points out:"The life skill of personal money management is one which underpins citizenship. It would be difficult for individuals to take part in many other aspects of citizenship if their financial affairs are a disaster."

Ian Duffell readily admits that when he joined the bank 30 years ago after taking his O-levels, he had no financial nous. "I didn't receive any education at all about money," he says.

However, he now puts his banking background and an MA in Professional Studies in Education to use by advising pupils on good budgeting and helping to set up cross-curricular projects on money "Money management is not something you can learn about in an hour, and I can never hope to impart all the knowledge I have now in that time, but it's a start," he says.

The emphasis is on making the practicalities of looking after money as interesting and exciting as spending it. Activities range from brass rubbing of old coins for five-year-olds to writing business plans and running a school shop for older teenagers.

One popular project was focused on fraud. Pupils at a Northampton school designed a credit card, visited Barclaycard headquarters and learned about fingerprints. The five-week scheme, culminating in a courtroom drama, attracted national media coverage.

Another set of 16-year-olds went to France as part of their money management studies and competed for a Pounds 5 prize in the follow-up essay competition on budgeting. It was won by a girl who described how she and a group of friends had clubbed together so that they paid only one commission charge on their currency transactions.

It isn't only the pupils who benefit from Ian's lessons, however. Many of the teachers that he meets like to tap his expertise too.

"Some teachers say jokily that they could do with a lesson," he says. His advice is the same as that he gives to sixth-formers.

Ian says he is never surprised by people's ignorance on money matters but emphasises that this should not be a source of embarrassment. "Nobody ever becomes a good nurse or bus driver or engineer without having been taught and it's the same with money management. But I have sometimes been surprised by how frightened people are of money. Not only do they not understand mortgages, pensions, life insurance and investments, they treat them like some sort of black art."

He is also surprised that there isn't a greater demand from adults for classes on money management. "I don't think I've ever come across a group of teachers who could put their hand on their heart and say they have the best possible mortgage or insurance policies. They don't shop around, they just tend to go for the first thing that is offered them and that they think is achievable.

"But when you think about it in terms of what they are paying, the difference over 30 or 40 years can be considerable. Many people take the first mortgage that they find. You wouldn't buy a shirt on that basis!"

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