Wise after the event

20th February 2004 at 00:00
Nearly 7,000 business studies teachers have received details of a new, free website. Ian Marcouse sees if it's worth the hype

There is no doubting the Government's enthusiasm for financial literacy. It is important not only in PHSE and citizenship but also post-16. Therefore Proshare and HSBC's launch of the Your Money Be Wise website is timely.

The site offers material for key stage 3 (everyday budgeting), KS4 (business and shares) and post-16 (financial management). Each section contains three or four case studies built around a central theme and comes with questions and activities. All sections are backed by a thorough, well set-out teacher's guide.

The site has several strengths: it is easy to navigate, has a clear home page and includes a couple of "movies" which are relevant and fun. It also has a spiral-bound paper version of all the materials to facilitate photocopying.

The whole package is suitable for deaf and blind students. For example, the text can be re-sized and the site also has sound. It has been nominated for an award in the youth and education category of the National Library for the Blind Visionary Design Awards.

Material such as this has to meet certain criteria to receive any serious consideration. It must be independent, authoritative, interesting and relevant to the target group.

To take each section in turn:

* KS3: the material starts promisingly, with a 20 second "movie" on a financially dysfunctional family. There are then three case studies looking at the family from the perspective of the mum, the son and the daughter. The first two are dull, but the daughter's tale ("a Christmas to remember") is powerful, with genuine possibilities for provoking discussion about family spending.

* KS4: this focuses on business finance, though the diet is largely institutional, with business organisations, the stock market and banks to the fore. At the heart of the material are four case studies based on a textile business started in 1856. It is hard to imagine an experienced teacher falling into the trap of a lengthy history of a company, complete with references to dyeing and weaving. On the plus side is a moderately good study of morale at this fictional business and a solid one on corporate social responsibility. Overall, though, one is left with the impression that many other sources have covered this ground better, for example Natwest's Face to Face photocopiable packs and website: www.natwestf2f.com.

* Post-16: three case studies are provided: on insurance; investment; and student finance. All three are dull topics, requiring highly innovative materials. These do not fit the bill. Most disappointing is the investment module. The starting scenario that "Jenny has won pound;120,000 on the lottery" illustrates the weak approach. Far better an idea would be to get your students involved in Proshare's online stock market game at: proshare.innovation.gov.uk.

What conclusions can one draw? First that websites such as this cannot lightly be given to students to "get on with". In this case, the site is free, but it could be so much better. Its only really impressive section is the KS3 story about the daughter's tale of the family finances. Other than that, there seems no reason to return to the site.


Ian Marcouse is an A-level business studies chief examiner

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