Why a bank is a bonus

9th May 2014 at 01:00
Teach financial responsibility by setting up a school currency

Bankers are widely blamed for the economic mess we are still trying to extricate ourselves from, and so are not the most popular people. Consequently, it may seem odd that we are asking students to take on that role at my school, risking the ire of their friends and family.

But at a time when many parents are struggling financially, teaching young children about money matters has never been more important. Now more than ever they need the skills and knowledge to make informed choices. And what better way of teaching these skills than to set up a commercial bank in our school, with our own currency called the Yeado?

Children receive Yeados for good behaviour and attendance and can earn bonuses for handing in homework early. Every month the children have a chance to spend their hard-earned Yeados in the shop on items such as stationery and footballs.

There is a strong emphasis on saving and avoiding the "easy credit" trap that previous generations have fallen into. When students don't have enough to afford something they want, they learn to pool their resources or save up for the future. Saving with the Bank of Yeading means they can earn 3 per cent interest every half-term.

The interest rate is set by a board of directors made up of elected students from Years 3-6 (seven- to 11-year-olds) and each class has its own banker, who records transactions on an Excel spreadsheet. They work under the supervision of the chief executive (the class teacher).

With our banking system, we are teaching the children about money, budgets and how to differentiate between financial wants and needs from an early age. The students have shown real enthusiasm and maturity in their approach to money management, which they can then apply in real life.

We complement this approach with other financial lessons. For example, we held an assembly in which children acted out transaction scenarios in French and Spanish, such as buying train tickets. We have also had them discussing bank etiquette in Latin and using money in maths.

More recently we have been trialling a new educational pack from the Illegal Money Lending Team (available on TES Connect at bit.lyMoneyPack), which warns children about the dangers of using loan sharks. The pack includes practical exercises that teach children about the ways in which people borrow money and the implications of managing debt. Children carry these messages home with them and encourage parents who may be at risk of financial difficulties to seek help.

The feedback from parents has been very positive and they have shown a keen interest in learning more themselves. The reaction from pupils has also been encouraging. It is clearly a subject they enjoy and one that will continue to prove its value in later years.

Carole Jones is headteacher of Yeading Junior School in Hayes, London. She was talking to Edmund Wax

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