A way for children to learn about money: School pays kids ‘purple pounds’ to spend on treats

The excitement is palpable as the highlight of the school week draws nearer – it’s time to meet the bank manager. 

Children aged ten and 11 queue boisterously to proudly present their timesheets to ten-year-old bank manager Rajvir and cash in their earnings.

They have been working diligently to earn ‘purple pounds’, the school currency. Pounds that can be exchanged for items at the school’s ’emporium’ or for tickets at school events.

Inspiring: Sian Bentley helps her Year Six children get to grips with finance

Inspiring: Sian Bentley helps her Year Six children get to grips with finance

‘I’ve been working as a translator,’ says Kornel, ten. ‘I earn two purple pounds per session and now I have enough to buy a bucket of slime.’

‘I’m an FAB mentor,’ adds Ashan, also ten. ‘That means Friends Against Bullies. When I help, I earn purple pounds. I’m saving mine.’

Since launching the school currency, Queensmead Primary Academy in Leicester has mobilised a workforce of 60 Year Six children who all chip in to arrange school events such as the successful Halloween disco and help younger children with their homework.

Some translate for parents who don’t speak English during meetings with teachers, such as Kornel, who speaks Polish, and Rajvir, who speaks Punjabi and Hindi. But the main purpose of purple pounds is to teach children about money.

‘Talking about money runs through everything we do,’ explains Liz Latham, the principal of Queensmead, which is part of the Greenwood Academies Trust. ‘We see it as a moral duty. The school is in the top ten per cent of most deprived areas nationally and many of the children will come from families where there are difficulties with money. We teach them about careers, aspiration and money.’

Next term, the school plans to start taxing purple pounds, taking a cut of everyone’s earnings to spend on something everyone can decide on together and enjoy – such as skateboarding lessons or playground equipment.

Deputy Sian Bentley adds: ‘We create a microcosm of normal society, so when they go out to work, the children realise you have to pay tax and understand why.’

These inspiring initiatives are why Sian won the primary school category in this year’s Moneywise Personal Finance Teacher of the Year awards. 

Moneywise, a monthly finance magazine, celebrates the best personal finance teachers around the country in its annual awards, in which winners are presented with a £5,000 cheque for their school at a black tie event in London. 

Sadly, many schools don’t teach about money at all. Personal finance is compulsory in secondary schools, but that does not apply to academies or free schools. Schools that do teach it often do so as part of citizenship lessons where it jostles for space with other personal, social and health lessons.

Some schools crowbar it into maths lessons, but Helen Westwood, teacher of financial studies at Caroline Chisholm School in Northamptonshire, says that’s not nearly good enough.

Helen was awarded the best secondary teacher award for her lessons in which she gets students talking about money by opening up about her own experiences – sharing everything from the budget for her wedding to her own payslips.

‘In maths, you can learn how to calculate a tax bill, but it won’t teach you why you are paying tax. It won’t teach you the difference between wants and needs, or how to work out if you can afford something.’

So if your children are not getting award-winning personal finance lessons at school, what can you do? ‘When you’re looking at schools, ask what they teach about personal finance,’ says Helen. ‘If nothing else it will get them thinking about what they offer.’

She adds: ‘At home, give children the opportunity to make decisions about money and feel the consequences of buyers’ remorse. I gave my daughter a £10 budget on holiday and she wanted to buy a horrid plastic toy I knew she’d lose interest in. I wanted to stop her buying it, but realised I have to let her learn.’

Rachel Rickard Straus is Editor of Moneywise. 





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