Teaching enterprise skills and money management at primary level

Written by: Headteacher Update | Published:
Skills for life: For 60 years, Young Enterprise has been supporting children and young people with applied learning and helping them to develop an enterprising mindset (Image: Young Enterprise)

It is never too young to begin teaching the skills of enterprise and money management. The programmes, resources and expertise of Young Enterprise are showing schools how...

How young is too young to begin teaching primary pupils about careers, money, and the personal skills they will need in the future?

While there are schemes in place in some primary schools to encourage young children to consider careers, it can feel very early in their lives to be discussing financial awareness and money management or indeed personal characteristics such as confidence, resilience, and self-esteem.

“We know children develop their values and attitudes towards money by the age of seven and they do that from learning from people around them,” explained Sharon Davies, chief executive of Young Enterprise.

“Not every child has someone at home who can shape positive attitudes and habits around finances, so there is a need to introduce financial education early on as a key skill.

“This is not currently on the curriculum, but the key influencers of young children are parents and teachers. It would be wonderful if children had that nucleus of skills that they can take on to secondary school.”

High-impact education

Young Enterprise, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, runs a number of programmes aimed at teaching children about money. Indeed, via its Young Money brand, it provides resources and training to anyone teaching pupils money management skills.

And it offers a number of enterprise programmes, initiatives, and expert advice to schools – all aimed at developing more enterprising mindsets, teaching key work-related skills, and giving children and young people a taste of the world of work.

Its Fiver Challenge involves 5 to 11-years-old researching, creating and running their own enterprise over the course of four weeks with an initial £5 pledge. The event, which will take place in June, includes an interactive and fun series of activities to introduce enterprise and financial education, and to build skills such as team-work and confidence.

Meanwhile, Money Heroes is a free financial education programme for teachers, parents and anyone working with primary-aged children. It offers an extensive range of resources and support designed to help you improve children's financial capability.

Applied learning in practice

Young Enterprise’s recent report What applied learning really looks like (Howes, 2022), outlines how schools can use real-life experiences and activities to prepare pupils for work, but also to make what they are learning at school feel relevant to them.

The study found that the biggest impact came not through extra-curricular activities, but when applied learning was embedded across the curriculum. In some cases, it even changed the entire culture of the school – often where schools used limited time and financial resources creatively.

One example from the study is Queensmead Primary Academy in Leicester, which has implemented a Purple Pound scheme that sees year 6 pupils operating a market economy by earning, spending, selling, saving, and borrowing money, and even banking.

The aim of the programme is to immerse pupils in a culture of finance and to equip them with advanced financial skills from a very young age.

Pupils apply for jobs that have been created by their teachers and write CVs and covering letters before going through an application process. They can become librarians, help younger pupils with reading, or organise sports activities for younger pupils.

Their “earnings”, in the form of Purple Pounds, can then be spent at the school’s emporium or saved in an account.

Young Enterprise programmes are also invaluable in helping children with special needs to learn vital life-skills and to become more independent. At Manor School in Brent, teachers created a café and food delivery service which operates on Fridays. Pupils have specific roles and tasks, which include being the chef, waiting and clearing tables, being maître d’, delivering food to classrooms (during the pandemic, they introduced a telephone order service to classes), cleaning, being the cashier, and being a team manager. The whole experience is designed to be as real-life as possible.

Weaving financial and enterprise education into the curriculum can be achieved by introducing the concepts in different subjects.

  • Writing a job description can be used in English, for example, to test literacy and introduce new vocabulary.
  • Running a lunchtime tuck shop can aid mental arithmetic skills as pupils calculate the cost of items, work out what change to give, greet customers – not to mention stock-taking.
  • Greetings cards, postcards or coasters can be made in an art or design and technology lesson and then sold as part of an enterprise project to boost school funds or support a charity.
  • A history project on kings and queens could involve inviting a guest speaker from the world of industry to discuss with pupils what specific attributes and characteristics contribute to effective leadership.

Leo Academy Trust

The seven primary schools in the Leo Academy Trust, based in London and Surrey, use the Young Money Financial Education Planning Framework, which can be used with children as young as three and all the way up to age 11. The cross-curricular approach aims to give pupils the confidence, skills, and knowledge they need to be confident with managing money. One of its schools, Cheam Park Primary Academy, leads this approach as a Young Enterprise Centre of Excellence for financial education.

Faye Gibney, vice-principal of another of the trust’s schools, Shawley Community Primary School, said Young Money resources are used alongside the trust’s own financial education lessons which run as a thread through all the schools and reach some 3,000 pupils.

“In the younger years, we look at things like how we look after our money and prioritise spending,” she explained. “For example, we might discuss how we need a roof over our head, which is a necessity we have to pay for, but buying a new pair of trainers is probably something we can do without.”

Older pupils learn about borrowing and lending money, how to protect their finances, and how they can help other people, for example by fundraising or making charitable donations.

Ms Gibney continued: “As a trust, and no matter what school pupils go to, we want them to get the same offer. It is part of our broad and balanced curriculum and getting pupils to develop their financial literacy and cultural capital.”

While financial education is taught mainly in maths and PSHE, it also reaches into other subjects. For example, children learn how bartering was the first known exchange of money for goods when they study Cleopatra and ancient Egypt.

Each school in the trust personalises its finance curriculum to meet the needs of pupils, as the proportion of children eligible for Pupil Premium varies from around 10% to a quarter of the roll, depending on the school.

Every school has a designated financial curriculum lead, and the seven leads collaborate in the network to discuss what strategies and teaching methods work well.

“This is our way of working on social mobility, and financial education is the start of that,” Ms Gibney added. “We want the children to believe they can achieve anything if they work hard. Being able to read, write and do calculations is important, but we also all have a personal relationship with money.

“These conversations can begin when the children are as young as three because they are given pocket money, or birthday and Christmas money, or technological devices that are expensive. Children need to understand that this money was earned by their parents’ working hard and paying tax and National Insurance.

“And they will need to make financial decisions themselves when they’re older. We place a high value on this teaching and learning, because not every child has someone at home who can help and guide them with this.”

This is a message that Ms Davies hears often from heads and teachers participating in Young Enterprise programmes and using its resources. But she believes more needs to be done, and that policy-makers need to take a lead and change their mindset about the power of enterprise and financial education.

“We’re not suggesting everyone needs to be an entrepreneur or financial expert, but we know there is a productivity issue in the UK and we need workers within all industries to have the right attributes and qualities for the workplace,” she said.

“So, I’m saying to policy-makers: look at the opportunities to embed applied learning across the whole curriculum in primary schools, so we can build self-efficacy, resilience and confidence and develop a generation of lifelong learners who can reflect upon and keep applying their learning.”

Further information & resources

Knowledge Bank

This article has been published by Headteacher Update with sponsorship from Young Enterprise. It has been written and produced to a brief agreed in advance with Young Enterprise.

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