The year was 1995; I’d managed to pay my POG debt back to my dad 25p at a time, just in time for Merlin’s Premier League stickers to hit the shelf. It was an exciting time to be alive, yet little did I know that Tazos were just around the corner and I would soon be buying more crisps than I ever had before.
At 8 years old, this was about as far as my sense of money spanned, where my next 25p was coming from and contingency planning trips to my nannas to make sure my supplies would never dry up. Jump to 2016 and young people no longer have to track how much money they’ve spent by the number of swapsies they have thanks to MoneySense, a free programme set up by NatWest to help make money relatable for 5 – 18 year olds.
Using key money moments in their lives - saving their pocket money, opening a bank account, or getting their first mobile phone - MoneySense uses games and videos, and a ‘flipped learning’ approach, to help encourage young people to learn at home, and then explore these ideas further with classmates and teachers in the classroom.
Must be Funny
MoneySense’s success is due to the blend of people involved. Parents, NatWest volunteers and teachers have access to a range of resources, such as lesson plans, activity sheets and videos, to help young people understand financial situations in a way that is both relatable and valuable.
NatWest employee Wendy Lewis has volunteered with Money Sense for several years, allowing her to bring real-life expertise and experience of money to the classroom as well as providing support to the teachers themselves.
“The children are always quite excited; they love a visitor, the youngsters especially. They’re not shy at all and will ask any number of questions. We always introduce ourselves, and maybe run some ice breakers, but if we see a child that’s not included, we make sure to ask them some questions.
The lessons are teacher led as they already have that bond with the pupils. The behaviour of the class is down to the teachers, and we’re there to add our experience, and encourage their ideas. They won’t see it as teaching as such, it’s life skills were trying to teach them.”
The workshops focus on four main elements of finance: money management, money safety, money in the world and my money future. While the exact content of the workshops vary depending on the age of the students, all of them have been developed with the curriculum in mind.
“We tailor the session depending on the children’s age. For instance, we might talk about credit cards to older children, and use our professional and life experience to point them in the right direction. We also try and link as much as we can to real world situations. Recently we’ve been able to talk more about fraud due to an increase in scams in the local area.”
I volunteer as tribute
MoneySense has been making a difference to the lives of young people and communities across the UK and the Republic of Ireland for 21 years, which wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the employee volunteers.
NatWest employees can sign up as a volunteer and provide support at workshops to help pupils put their learning into practice: develop confidence, self-reliance and enterprise skills, share creative ideas, and develop presentation and research skills.
Volunteers aren’t sent out on their own with nothing but a handful of information either. This year we’ll have held 6 Volunteer Preparation sessions, a service that helps volunteers prepare for running their MoneySense workshops.
“The Volunteer Preparation scheme gives an overview of what MoneySense is about as a whole, and helps you find the various support programmes that are available on the website. You’re also paired up with a colleague on each visit to help build up your confidence.
If you go through the lesson plan to familiarise yourself then there is nothing to worry about. You have a colleague there to work with. We’re all volunteers, so everyone has the enthusiasm to make a difference.”
MoneySense and sensibility
“On one my first ever visits, I walked into the classroom and forgot how small 3 and 4 year olds were. They were all sat cross legged on the floor, so made my way through them, and as I got to the very front a little 3 year old shouted out ‘What is that smell?’
I looked at him and realised he was talking about my perfume. I asked him if it smells nice and he replied with ‘YYEAAHHH!’ I was speechless. They ask a lot of questions at that age. They are so honest, I love it.”
MoneySense has already helped millions of young people understand how money works, and give them the confidence they need to manage their money responsibly for the future.
It has also provided employees with opportunities for their own personal and professional development as they play an important part in supporting teachers by bringing their experience and expertise to the pupils.
“It can be a one off experience if you want it to be, but we get access to a directory of all of the schools who have requested volunteers. I personally log into it once a month and choose one or two schools that are close. You have to be proactive on your part, but you can volunteer for as many or as few to suits you.”
MoneySense is just one of the many ways that NatWest looks to develop our staff and give back to the community.
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