When the penny drops

20th March 2009 at 00:00
A financial education initiative is teaching nursery children about money - and improving their numeracy skills - in a fun way

At Newark Nursery School in Port Glasgow, musical bumps has been totally revamped. When the music stops, the children don't sit down. Instead, they run to grab one of the inflatable coins on the floor and shout out what it is. The child without a coin, or who can't identify it, is then out.

This is just one of the resources available as part of the nursery's financial education initiative. Following a visit from Margaret Kelly, education finance officer, staff set themselves a task of educating children - and their parents - about money and finance.

Thanks to funding from the Financial Inclusion Fund, the children now have access to magnetic money which can be used in play; cards to play Snap have been made with coins on the faces; and real money is available for etching and for use in the nursery shop.

Hazel Mitchell is headteacher at the nursery. "A lot of children now- adays don't know where money comes from. They assume you just go to the hole in the wall, or swipe a credit card. Some don't understand the concept of working for money," she says.

As well as reinforcing the work ethic, developing numeracy skills has been high on the agenda. "We replaced the number line with a line of coins in the maths corner, and the children very quickly learned to recognise the different coins. As they advanced, we were able to challenge them with the difference between a 10 pence piece, and 10 one penny pieces."

At the training session for staff, Mrs Kelly explained what kinds of financial education were going on in primary and secondary schools; why financial education was so important, and informed them of the resources and funding available. This led to a parents' day with the focus on saving money.

"We invited Inverclyde's financial fitness team along to speak to parents, as well as the credit union for them to talk to and, ideally, join. It was well attended and really successful; even some of the staff joined," says Ms Mitchell. "Margaret even arranged for all the children to receive a piggy bank with a Pounds 1 coin in it, to encourage them to save."

Whenever possible, real money is used. As well as being more realistic, it allows the children the chance to handle the real thing and to make the association easier. A nursery shop has been set up, with the children taking charge, as well as writing the signs and prices.

"The shop is really good for emergent writing," says Ms Mitchell, "and the children have been good at writing the prices. But, as well as this, we have incorporated it into other areas. In the arts area, Monopoly money is used to make pictures, and coins are available for rubbings."

She describes the staff as very innovative, from visiting a supermarket to inventing the game "Roll a penny", where the rules involve choosing a coin, saying what it is and rolling it down an upturned light tube, into a hoop.

The work came to a temporary halt when the nursery moved premises, but now that they have settled in, they are ready to proceed to the next stage - the opening of the nursery bank, to encourage a saving culture. Parents have agreed to help and children will be given a passbook which will be marked up each week.

Mrs Kelly is pleased with how things have gone. "Inverclyde was recently highlighted by the Scottish Government as an area of red alert for the high number of families who were classed as income deprived, and who didn't have a bank account or savings. My remit was to develop a strategy to do something about this, and to introduce savings to schools," she says.

"There was a genuine interest from everyone - staff, parents, and children - with the staff coming up with some innovative and creative ideas. I am really pleased with how it went and how it is continuing. In the short time it has been running, a vast amount of work has gone on, and there has been a huge interest.

"After all, money touches everyone's lives in some way."

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