World of finance comes to the classroom

MONEY TALKS From left teacher Luke Rees talks to Louis Greaves (13), Adam Watts (14), and Noor Shihadeh (13). Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (133160-1)
MONEY TALKS From left teacher Luke Rees talks to Louis Greaves (13), Adam Watts (14), and Noor Shihadeh (13). Picture: Ian Hargreaves (133160-1)
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Many of us could do with a little help managing our finances.

Worldwide debt has soared in recent years with many countries being forced into recession.

And in September this year, the government announced that financial education will be included in the national curriciulum so that children will be targeted at a younger age.

It will help to ensure they are responsible with their money as they grow up and have a greater understanding of the financial world at an earlier age.

The curriculum will be rolled out across all government-funded or maintained schools, from September 2014.

They will learn how public money is raised and spent.

Personal finance is already taught in schools in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But Portsmouth Grammar School already runs a course for its Year 9 pupils.

The school has been running the course for the last five years and is supported by ifs (the Institute of Financial Services), an education charity which acts as an exam board to allow students to gain qualifications.

Luke Rees is head of economics and business studies at the school.

He says the course has been very successful with students.

‘The school decided to take it on as an introduction to business studies at GCSE,’ he says.

‘It’s to do with the ease at which people can get credit now and the state of the economy.

‘We felt it was a good way to bring it together and to teach valuable lessons about pupils using their money.’

Mr Rees says the subject has proven popular with parents, who are eager for their children to understand the value of money at an early age.

‘Parents have a say as to what subjects the pupils will choose in Year 9. It’s very popular with the parents,’ he adds.

‘In school you can study maths and English and there’s not a real relation to the real world and employment.

‘But this puts it into context and brings it a bit closer.

‘They really enjoy it.

‘They are nice kids and they do appreciate the message we are trying to give in terms of the value of money.’

The course covers a wide range of subjects, and around half of the students who study it go on to study it at GCSE level.

They discuss what money is, how it’s kept secure and what it’s used for.

Children are also shown how to tell the difference between a real bank note and a fraudulent one.

They are introduced to different types of bank accounts such as savings accounts and how they can be beneficial.

They are also tasked with studying the foreign exchange and how to work out the difference in the value of foreign money.

‘It’s very different to anything else they currently study,’ Mr Rees adds.

‘It helps them budget. We run something midway through the course where we get them to budget their pocket money to see how they get on.

‘How are they going to save for something and budget their money?

‘That’s good practice now and it will have greater consequences for when they get to university.

‘We have had a really good response. Numbers have grown this year.

‘It’s gone from one class to four.

‘There is so much we see on the news about consumer debt in the UK.

‘If we aren’t acting now to try and solve that problem in years to come, we are missing a trick.

‘Other schools taking it on has got to be a good thing.’

Meanwhile, pupils at the school also feel it’s very helpful to learn more about the value of money and what it means.

Adam Watts, 14, says: ‘It’s quite fun because I like all the maths and working out the tax and figuring out where the money goes and how much people get compared to their gross salary.

‘I know that money is more precious.

‘Although you might get paid a lot of money, quite a lot of it is going to get taxed.’

Noor Shihadeh, 13, adds: ‘It’s a challenge but it’s a really interesting subject to learn.

‘It gives you a wider view of the outside world and how money is used.’

IT ALL ADDS UP Millie Cooper and Florence Bishop, both 13 (133160-5)

Pupils at the school have really embraced the subject.

Many of the students say they feel it’s already benefitting them when it comes to controlling how they spend their pocket money.

Millie Cooper, 13, says: ‘I found it quite tricky at first but I have learnt how to do it. I thought that I would struggle but I haven’t.

‘It’s a good thing because it means that I will be responsible with my money.

‘I get pocket money and I have learnt how to save it and not waste my money.

‘I used to do that a lot.

‘I have got horses and I just used to waste it on things for that.

‘I used to buy things that I liked the look of because I wanted it.

‘Now there’s one thing I want and I’m going to save up for it because they are quite expensive - riding boots.’

Florence Bishop, 13, adds: ‘I find some of the words tricky but the maths side of it is quite easy.

‘It’s really good because we will have more of an understanding of the way this country works and the money and the problems the government is facing.

‘I will have a better understanding of the issues in the news.’

Meanwhile pupil Louis Greaves, 13, adds he enjoys studying it: ‘I find it fantastic because a few months ago I thought the whole thing was too advanced for me and I wouldn’t get it until I was an adult.

‘It makes the whole world and everything seem a lot more complex.

‘It makes you regard money as something more special than just notes or bits of metal.

‘Already it’s made me check all of my bank notes for fraud. It’s made me value money a lot more.

‘It has made me think every time I go to a shop where that money has come from and where it will go.’

ifs University College is one of the UK’s leading financial education charities.

It has provided GCSE and A-level equivalent qualifications to schools throughout the UK since 2006.

Since their launch, more than 130,000 teenagers have taken an ifs qualification.

It has provided the youngsters with the skills, confidence and knowledge to manage their own finances.

Many of them have then subsequently chosen to pursue a career in the financial services industry.

All of the qualifications are rigorous, accredited and independently assessed.

ifs University College was granted University College title in August 2013 by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

For more information about the courses run by ifs, please visit the website at ifslearning.ac.uk.