When I first met the secondary school winner of our Personal Finance Teacher of the Year Awards 2019, I felt as if I knew her already
After all, I’d read Helen Westwood’s bar tab for her wedding, an only very slightly censored copy of her payslip, and the budget from her 2008 trip to New Zealand.
This is because Helen, who teaches financial studies at Caroline Chisholm School in Northampton, brings her lessons to life by sharing real-life examples and making them practical.
Last week, we invited Helen and seven other shortlisted teachers to a black-tie dinner in London, where the winners of the competition were revealed and big cheques given out, courtesy of Moneywise’s parent company interactive investor, which sponsored the awards.
It was a privilege to be able to recognise the teachers’ hard work and ingenuity as well as raise the profile of great finance education.
Whether you spent your school years snogging behind the bike sheds or asking for extra homework, all of us will remember the feeling of knowing a teacher who was able to bring clarity, insight and humour to complicated subjects.
At Moneywise we believe that good money management lessons in schools is crucial and we champion those who are leading the way.
Teachers came from very different types of schools and from up and down the country.
But they shared one thing in common: an absolute dedication to teaching young people about money and finding innovative ways of bringing lessons to life.
Sian Bentley, the winner of the primary school category, has launched a currency at her school, called Purple Pounds. Older students there can look on the job vacancies board to find a role they are qualified for, apply for it and attend an interview, and if successful, do the job and get paid in Purple Pounds. They can save these in the bank for future treats or spend them in the Purple Pound Emporium.
For example, an 11-year-old student could apply for a job as a Homework Club Support, helping younger children with their homework. The role takes up two lunchtimes a week and pays two Purple Pounds, which can be spent on things like pencil cases or a popcorn and film event at school.
How much more memorable doing it practically than simply learning the theory in the classroom of jobs, currencies, and working for your community.
The award applications we received show that similarly engaging and innovative lessons are happening in classrooms across the country.
The success of these teachers suggests that a large component of great money lessons is about bringing the subject to life.
In a classroom this may have to be simulated: case studies of homebuyers to learn about mortgages, an invented party to plan for to learn about budgeting.
But at home, it’s just real life. For those wondering how to help children understand money, that can be a great place to start. It doesn’t have to be about text books and theory, but instead comparing prices at the supermarket, or working out a good deal on currency for a summer holiday together.
When I talk to people about the teachers who won our awards and their smart strategies to get kids thinking about money, the first thing most say is “I wish I’d learnt all these things at school”.
It’s mind-boggling to think how different our lives might be if we’d had a better understanding of money and attitude towards it from school age.
We may have made very different choices about debt, spending habits, investing and planning our money.
The work of these brilliant teachers is changing lives for decades to come.
Post The editor, Moneywise, 8 Devonshire Square, Office 03W112, London EC2M 4PL