You can bank on this

2nd March 2007 at 00:00
P5 pupils are discovering the joys of saving, thanks to a bank's education programme which encourages schools to open their own branches and teach children the value of money

GREG MURDOCH from Williamston Primary in Livingston, West Lothian, has begun saving each week and he plans to keep on saving until he is 16 years old. Then he is going to buy something, although he isn't sure what. "It depends on how my personality changes when I get older," says the nine-year-old simply.

He isn't the only P5 pupil discovering the delights of saving. At the end of January, Williamston became one of 20 schools in Scot-land to open its own bank under the auspices of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Another 10 have applied for the facility, which is an extension of the bank's Face2Face with Finance programme.

Over the past 12 years, the RBS has invested pound;32 million in its education programme and recently announced plans to roll out its school banks in deprived areas.

When Greg's P5 class began the Money Makes the World Go Round topic in environmental studies, his teacher, Kathryn French, quickly became aware of the misconceptions her pupils had about finance. "We need to teach children about money management, there is no doubt about that," she says. "But it is difficult to make them understand when they are bombarded with loan adverts every 10 minutes between cartoons on TV. Some have been surprised that you have to pay loans back at all, and that you pay back more than you borrowed."

But while she recognised its importance, she was apprehensive about how to approach it in a way that engaged the children. Fortu-nately, a parent worked at RBS and was aware of its pledge made last year to expand its school banks initiative. She put school and bank together and by January the class was ready to launch its own branch.

Part of the process involves recruiting and training cashiers so that they can open an account, record and balance cash pay-ins and deal with customers.

Alice Bennett, 8, is a cashier at Williamston, along with Greg, Nathan Campbell, Owen Forrest, Zach Keane and Hayley Galloway. She had to apply for the job and then be interviewed by the RBS. "It wasn't scary, I didn't know what they were going to ask. But I knew to answer clearly and keep looking at them," she says.

During the first session they only had to deal with two deposits, but Mrs French hopes that more of her pupils will get into the habit of saving. She is keen for this programme to continue beyond P5 and to expand.

"As enterprise co-ordinator, I would encourage any teacher to do it," she says. "It covers so many areas: environmental studies, enterprise, language, listening and talking, writing, interview techniques, ICT and maths. It also fits A Curriculum for Excellence."

To help reinforce the money sense message, Mrs French had her headteacher, Arlene Black, discuss the school budget with the class and she got the chair of the board, Donald MacDonald, who is also a senior director of the Royal Bank of Scotland Corporate division, to talk about the danger of loans.

Her concerns about making money interesting have long disappeared and she believes it might prove to be one of the things her pupils remember most about P5. Greg is unlikely to forget, especially if he keeps saving and sees his money grow so he can buy that something special at 16.

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