What next for the winners of our Personal Finance Teacher of the Year awards?

20 December 2018

Six months ago, Moneywise awarded a primary and a secondary school our Personal Finance Teacher of the Year award – each received prize money of £3, 250. We went to catch up with the two winners to see how they have put the prize money to good use.

Rachel Rickard Straus visits Arkholme Primary School in Lancashire and meets prize winner, head teacher Joy Ingram

Winning our Personal Finance Teacher of the Year award was a big moment for the children of Arkholme Church of England Primary School.

“We could finally buy new glue sticks, ” Beau, aged 10, tells me gleefully when I visit the school, just before they broke up for Christmas.

At this friendly, tight-knit school nestled in the beautiful Lune Valley everyone, from the age of four onwards, is taught the value of things – and is invested in the school’s finances.

Pupils learn about money early
Pupils learn about money early
Pupils learn about money early

“I’m very open with them about our school budget, ” says Mrs Ingram. “I share with them facts such as when they break a pencil, for example, we have to find the money to buy a new one – and that that’s not always possible.

“Some children from more affluent families may not see this at home – I want to make sure they understand the cost of resources and learn to respect things and not just throw things away.”

Personal finance lessons start at age four, when children begin to handle money.

“At this age, the concept that each coin has a different value is quite difficult, ” says Mrs Ingram. “If you say this is a 1p, this is a 2p, this is a 5p piece and ask ‘what is the total value?’, the instinct is to see that there are three coins and to just do one plus one plus one makes three. However, a little later, the idea clicks into place.”

Two six-year-olds have just cracked it. “This silver coin has got the most money in it, ” says Beatrice, aged six and three-quarters, showing me a 10p piece.

Incredibly, by year four, children are learning about tax, national insurance and VAT, by year five about lending, and by year six about jobs and earning.

Important lessons are taught through fun and games: when I visit, some children are organising an Elf Run to make money for a local hospice and others have just learnt about budgeting through shopping for a class party.

Children hold a party to learn about budgeting
Children hold a party to learn about budgeting

Remy, Thomas, Ruth and Archie tell me about their party, for which they all got the minibus to Sainsbury’s to buy the things on their lists with money they had been given by Mrs Ingram. “I was in charge of the savoury things, ” says Ruth.

Then they hit the cake aisle, where there were difficult decisions to be made.

“We wanted to buy a cake, which had sprinkles and chocolate icing on it, but it was too many pounds, ” pipes up Archie. “We bought a different one, though, and it was nice.”

It was not just glue sticks that the £3, 200 competition prize money allowed Arkholme School to buy.

“We’re a school of just 75 and our budget is around £3, 500 a year to cover everything – art materials, history topic books – everything. The prize money literally doubled our budget, ” says Mrs Ingram.

Mrs Ingram with her award
Mrs Ingram with her award

One use will be the launch of the school’s own currency: the Ark.

Members of the school council, elected children from each year group, are tasked with being the voice of the pupils when school decisions are made.

The group have just closed a competition that all children could enter to design Arks, and they are trying to decide on the winning design.

Arks will be given out to pupils who do good deeds or work, and they will be able to spend them at a school shop.

Members of the school council will run the shop and decide what to sell. The process is prompting questions about the very nature of money. “Who is going to print it?” they discuss. “What will one Ark cost?” “Can we save up millions of Arks and buy a house for everyone in the school to live in?”

Arkholme School
Arkholme School

The prize money will also be used to fund an entrepreneurs’ challenge, in which groups of pupils will be given a small sum to see how they can use their entrepreneurial skills to grow it. Initial ideas include making decorations and lemonade to sell.

Watch this space; it seems the Moneywise prize money is set to grow and grow.

Edmund Greaves visits Dane Court Grammar School in Broadstairs, Kent, and meets prize winner Ceri Diffley

On a brisk Friday morning in late November, Ms Diffley has two double periods to teach.

The first starts early at 8:45am with her Year 13s. On the schedule for today is revision preparations.

The eight class members are set a task of writing summaries of a case study: a woman called Olga wants to go abroad for a friend’s wedding. What are the implications of foreign exchange for her?

A class at Dane Court School work on a personal finance project
A class at Dane Court School work on a personal finance project

The class works through a framework called PESTEL, which covers the transaction from political, economic, social, technology, environment and legal angles.

Using a relatively simple case-study exercise, the 17- to 18-year-olds forensically analyse every aspect of a foreign exchange transaction, from Brexit and the global financial crisis to online exchange platforms and credit cards.

It is extraordinarily in depth. The students learn about highly technical aspects of finance, such as the European Union Financial Transparency directive and other regulations.

Between the eight classmates, the PESTEL framework is divided up so they can, as a group, balance out the workload.

The purpose of this is to create a comprehensive set of revision notes for their exams, while sharing the workload to save time.

There is a lot to cover on the course, but what makes this exercise all the more remarkable is that the students are live-updating a shared Google document in real time. The shared work task is rendered effortless with modern technology.

Ms Diffley spent her prize money on 14 brand new state-of-the-art Google Chromebooks. In buying a set of laptops for her students she has made this kind of shared-work exercise completely seamless.

In the past, Ms Diffley has worked for a bank

And the impact of this technology has wider benefits. With her classes now 100% supplied for tech, other classes in the school feel less of a struggle for computer resources. Less blagging and borrowing of hardware from other resource-needy departments and classes.

But the impact of students having access to cloud resources at their fingertips goes even further. A few have their own devices, but most do not. Having access to course tools, documents and notes in the cloud is invaluable for these young adults.

With the laptops the student now use, they can get up-to-date information, and Ms Diffley is able to blend the structure of the course with current events of the day.

Some students come from multiple-household families – a common occurrence of modern life. Having unfettered cloud access to their class resources means never forgetting their notes or having to lug a binder full of papers when splitting their time between separated parents.

There is no doubt that teaching is a resource-hungry endeavour. Ms Diffley says the school is lucky that she has a background in finance – she was an HR rep at Barclays Bank before becoming a teacher.

Ms Diffley
Ms Diffley (above) used her award to buy state-of-the-art Chromebooks (below)

State-of-the-art Chromebooks

Without this she says she would struggle to relate course material to real-life situations. Sitting listening to her lesson, it was interesting to see how it was littered with personal anecdotes that give great colour to what she is trying to get across.

In the lesson with Year 12s on the difficulties of handling debt, Ms Diffley is able to deftly explain the gravity of a Company Voluntary Arrangement, while humorously engaging with the pupils.

The lesson even draws the students to recount their own family circumstances. This is clearly something that they are aware of, even if their parents don’t fully explain.

Assistance with the curriculum comes from other places, but is oddly unhelpful in some respects. Free textbooks turn up in the middle of the first term, when they would have been more useful six months earlier at a time when Ms Diffley was actually planning her course for the year.

When the Year 13s are asked what they want to do when they leave school, their responses are mixed. A few want to do apprenticeships in accountancy or digital marketing. Others want to go to university to study business management or building management and surveying. One wants to study Japanese.

But for all their different interests, the kids seem smart, engaged and articulate. And this seems a fair reflection of their teacher’s dedication.

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