Subject Leadership Diary
What joy! What bliss! Half-term is here and the weather is good, the foliage is that brilliant array of oranges and browns and it is a delight to walk in the cool crisp air. During the week before half-term we have had the faculty few down with colds, as our batteries get a bit low and are in need of recharging. However, it has not stopped us moving on with our ‘financial well-being’ week. I have had the pleasure and privilege of addressing a number of teachers about this important aspect of Every Child Matters - students achieving economic well-being, which is part of the Big Picture. We try as hard as possible to keep this in our sights whenever we revise our schemes of work. A couple of years ago we built into all our schemes a week during which we focus on financial awareness. This time, Year 7 students have concentrated on mobile phones and the costs involved in the contracts they use. It was rather frightening to discover that a lot of them are unaware of how much their phones are costing their parents because they do not have to pay the bills themselves. Hopefully, they will now have more idea, and therefore think more carefully about how they use them.
We looked at one of the National Centre's Teacher Enquiry Funded Projects, SMART MONEY - using personal finance education to promote engagement with mathematics, which was led by Margaret Ballantyne. From the final report, we learned that: “The project began in April and ended in December 2009. The research was funded by the NCETM and was supported by the personal finance education group (pfeg). The research centred on able but less motivated/engaged students in year 10 recruited from both of the secondary schools in Bognor Regis – Felpham Community College and Bognor Regis Community College. Intervention took the form of a series of after school workshops, which continued into the autumn term of year 11. For each workshop, existing materials were drawn together and new resources were developed on personal finance issues which would directly impact on the students in the future.”
While this gave us some excellent advice, we did not want to do the work after school, but to incorporate it into the normal school day. We debated the usual questions about how we can spend a week on personal finance education while still having enough time for everything else that we normally do. The answer is that we use the financial work to ‘cover’ some of what is usually done. For example, working with money (four rules with money) does not need to be addressed in Year 7 as a special topic in addition to the work on mobile phones – there are plenty of opportunities within the ‘mobile phones’ work to practise money calculations. Also, students find it more motivating to work with real data that they themselves have produced. Noting the number of calls and their durations, and texts, that they make or send at various times of the day, provides them with their own data. Discovering, as a result of their own reasoning and calculating, the total cost over a month, and also annually, gives some of them quite a shock!
Year 8 students plan and cost a holiday. We trawl travel agents to collect the necessary up-to-date literature, and then students consider planning a holiday for their family, given a budget. This has to include travel to the airport or ferry (if they decide to go abroad), so not only do they have to cope with finance, but also with timetables.
Students in Year 9 explore savings and bank accounts. We use resources on the NatWest MoneySense For Schools website to help here – recreating something like this ourselves from scratch would involve too much time. Year 10 students deal with wages, tax and national insurance, giving them some idea of how little money they might be left with after all the deductions have been taken and they have had to pay for rent, food and utility bills! Not quite what they expected.
What about Year 11? Well, they have worked through some of our ‘finance’ activities in previous years, and with mock GCSEs looming in December we decided that discretion was needed with them, so we currently do not have anything specifically financial in place for them.
Well, time to get out and about before the next half-term starts – the apples from the garden have been collected and stored (and we’ve eaten quite a lot of them already) and the days are shorter. With the clocks going back there’s an extra hour of this half-term break – yippee!