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Big Business Invests Time in Children’s Financial Literacy

    Suggested Age Range: 9-11
    Type of Activity: Virtual Employer Encounter and Skills Challenge

    Recently, three Cornish schools were invited to engage in careers related learning with PwC, one of the ‘Big Four’ multinational accountancy firms. While PwC do not have office presence in Cornwall, they do have clients here and wished to extend their educational reach to Cornish primary pupils in recognition of the county’s involvement in the Start Small, Dream Big pilot project. Much like the wider project itself, PwC’s foray into primary careers related learning is a pilot, led by their Social Mobility Manager Laura Carter. Laura is passionate about reaching children early to help develop the key skills that they will need in their working life and the financial literacy skills they will need for their future wellbeing. Economic wellbeing already sits firmly within the primary school personal development space and the Career Development Institute also earmark young people’s need to ‘be aware of how money can be earned’ and ‘able to make decisions about saving spending and budgeting’[i]. Read on to discover how PwC contributed to this crucial aspect of children’s development.


    Keeping the Quality in a Virtual Format

    Laura developed a 1h30m virtually delivered event for years 5 and 6, structured in three parts; an overview of the work of PwC, an opportunity to meet and question relatable role models and an interactive challenge fitted to the abilities and needs of the age-group. Laura has developed and delivered a similar format in face-to-face primary school experiences and was keen to retain the same quality in the virtual offering to ensure Cornish pupils were not disadvantaged by geography.

    The bespoke sessions with Bodriggy, Indian Queens and St Newlyn East schools started with a short talk about who PwC are and what they do; telling children about the size of the company, their spread across the UK and the sort of people and businesses they work with. Before the talk, consideration went into the language and messaging used. The presenters avoided jargon and unnecessary detail so that children could understand the company’s work in simple, relatable terms: essentially that they give financial advice to high street names and brands that children would know.


    Highlighting Essential Skills

    Before introducing volunteers to the children, the session focussed on essential skills (, making the link for children between the key skills they use in school and how the people they were about to meet use the very same skills to do their job well. The children were then asked to focus on one particular skill – listening – while three volunteers from varied roles introduced themselves. Children were given the opportunity to think about some questions for the volunteers in table groups before an interactive question and answer session.


    Raising Financial Literacy

    Pupils then engaged in a group budgeting challenge: deciding how to allocate a week’s budget to cover food, drink, travel and fun. Laura wanted to design an activity to develop pupil confidence in financial literacy, reporting that ‘This is an area of personal skill that pupils often struggle with, especially in areas of deprivation and high unemployment where money is a negative and stressful aspect of daily life.’ Pupils were given 20 minutes to work in teams on a structured challenge that allowed them to explore the importance of money and budgeting. Through the resourced task, they had to make choices in prioritising some purchases over others.


    Managing Money

    In a feedback activity, pupils reflected on their decisions; for example, were they able to buy everything they wanted, and if not, how did they choose what to compromise on? Had they considered perhaps eating the cheapest food every day in order to save for a special outing – would that make them happy or healthy on balance? Would they consider spending more time saving for an expensive game in order to spend some savings on a meal out that made them feel positive or allowed them to be social?

    PwC also sensitively picked up on the awareness some children demonstrated during the session: that budgeting decisions just like these might explain why they cannot always have the things they ask parents and carers for. They also took the opportunity to talk to children about the concept of value for money and practical ways to consider this when they go shopping with family; perhaps they could look at the price per kilo on labels for example and make budgeting choices about own brands versus big brands.

    • Teachers reported that the budgeting activity landed very well with the children and enabled them to think more concretely about money, the real cost of items and the limitations most people face.
    • ‘The children enjoyed the session and were buzzing to feed back to others about what they had been doing and learned,’ said one of our year 6 teachers. ‘The volunteers who conducted the session were great with the children and they responded really well to them.’
    • Teachers also felt the session impacted on the development of essential skills particularly problem solving, teamwork and resilience, alongside more obvious curriculum links to numeracy and literacy.
    • Children’s comments suggested an impact on aspirations and their understanding of the workplace and office working. One school noted an observable impact on children’s overall confidence and self-efficacy during the team challenge.
    • Volunteers from PwC enjoyed working, in some cases for the first time, with younger children. They appreciated the relevance of starting a little earlier to link learning with the world of work and financial responsibility. They also remarked on the enthusiastic response from their young audience at this stage of careers related learning: ‘Students were super engaged. They really joined in, asked lots of questions, came up with lots of ideas and explanations for our real-life examples and challenges.’
    • Laura found that virtual delivery allowed her to draw on a larger pool of volunteers to inspire the children since geographical limitations were removed. This format will allow the company greater flexibility in tailoring volunteers to specific activities they set in future sessions.


    PwC’s Advice
    • Try to make virtual sessions both high quality and accessible. Provide activities that can be done with or without printing the resources, ensuring that the task links to pupils’ experience and is not overly complicated. This way, children can maximise their time working on solutions to the challenge and school budgets will not impact the experience.
    • Make yourself aware of how technology is set up within the classroom; for example, where pupils have to approach the microphone to share a comment interactivity can be reduced and volunteers need to be prepared to adapt to slower responses and nervous speakers.
    • Suggest teachers set aside time for children to generate questions ahead of the session to help keep the careers focus sharp (this would of course involve finding time to brief the teachers in advance but may pay dividends in terms of impact).
    • Where possible, add physical tasks for children during volunteer presentations (for example, moving to different areas of the room to show opinion).


    [i] The Careers Development Institute, (2021) CDI_124-Framework-Handbook_for_schools-v5.pdf (