Young minds focus on money

8th June 2012 at 01:00
A programme that combines public speaking and financial know-how is getting a good return. Jackie Cosh reports

Some people are terrible at saving money. How many of you want to go shopping with friends and then find you only have two pounds in your purse?" As the speaker pauses, eye contact is good, the tone is confident and the pace is engaging the listener. Fourteen-year-old Sarah Macdonald has impressed her audience.

Roll back six hours and the third-year business management pupils at Linlithgow Academy are less confident, both about money and public speaking. But Jackie Cameron of the Speakers Trust is here to change that.

"`Financially Speaking" is one of the workshops that the public-speaking training organisation runs in schools. Funded by the Citi Foundation, the programme combines the teaching of public speaking and financial literacy in a one-day workshop aimed at second- and third-year pupils.

The day begins with everyone introducing themselves and naming one thing they like to spend money on and one they begrudge spending money on. Over the next hour everyone gets the chance to stand up and speak to the class about how they would spend a lottery win.

Thinking about how to spend the money is easy, and the pupils are all clear speakers. But everyone still benefits from discussing what they spot as being good practice, while discussing what they shouldn't do. Ms Cameron advises them how to stand and when to pause, and tells them about the fan technique that performers use to ensure they look at everyone in the room.

"To make a great presentation you need three things - delivery, content and structure," she tells the class. "How would you feel if you went out for dinner and the starter was cold? It would be a bad start and you wouldn't expect the rest of the meal to be good. Think of your talk as a meal. Give them a bad start and they won't be excited. Give them a poor ending and that is what they will remember."

The combination of public speaking and finance is an unusual one but it works surprisingly well, with the pupils really engaging.

"We haven't covered public speaking (in class) says business management teacher Satbinder Sandhu. "But with Curriculum for Excellence, they are encouraged to make presentations and give feedback and learn from each other. Here they are doing it in a different setting and these are fantastic tips, which are also life skills."

Next Ms Cameron gives the pupils a quick lesson on tax, mortgages and borrowing, essential knowledge for the next stage of the day - the Marketplace game. With a monthly budget of pound;3,000 for a family of four, each team has to balance income with outgoings, making decisions about what to prioritise and dealing with any unexpected changes to finance which are thrown at them.

It is interesting to see how frugal all the groups become when they are working towards a prize, but how they all differ in the way they make the decision on whether to rent or buy a property.

"This activity is good in getting them to make decisions and think ahead," says Mrs Sandhu. "Sometimes things happen which are not in your control and there are extra costs. It's an eye-opener for them to realise what families go through. It allows them to relate what they have learned to the outside world, to see how it fits in to the bigger picture."

The final task for the day is for each pupil to speak for one minute on "Money and Me". They have to take what they have learned about finances and speak about it, using all the public-speaking tips they were given earlier.

Fifteen-year-old Jamie Dalgleish begins by asking the audience a question, a tip given to make the audience feel more involved. As he continues with explaining the importance of saving to his audience, he begins to relax and his speech becomes more confident. Using the fan technique which they learned about earlier, he looks around at his classmates as he speaks to them.

Mrs Sandhu is pleased to see that they have picked up a lot from the day. "There is evidence of rich learning from their responses," she says. "They can relate it to what they learn in business management and maths. I think the business game opens so much discussion."

With the day finished, Ms Cameron leaves them with things to think about and with skills they can keep developing.

"We want them to recognise what they do well already, to nail that and practise and build on it. It's about refining that and getting peer learning. Today has been a full, action-packed day. It has been chaos at times, but chaos is where the great learning comes from."


The Speakers Trust provides public-speaking training and workshops to people who work for or receive support from the not-for-profit sector. For schools and youth work agencies, they also offer workshops such as interview skills, debating skills, and positive thinking.

Citi Foundation has been funding the Financially Speaking programme in Edinburgh since 2008. Originally funded to deliver it in three schools, they now work in 10 schools across the capital and are looking to expand the programme nationally.

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