MyBnk caught up with Gemma, who fronts our latest financial education outpost in Scotland. We talk poverty, Pythagoras and a reluctance to discuss dosh.
So Gem, what are you doing here?
Delivering financial education for young people!
We’re focusing on building positive money habits in primary schools and helping young adults move into independent living. Being based locally I’m able to work closely with teachers and youth workers. This helps us understand the specific challenges young people here face.
Despite Scotland taking money lessons further than other home nations, it faces the same obstacles in terms of quality and outcomes.
Scotland also has unique challenges due to high levels of deprivation. One of the schools I’ve been working in recently lost three students in tragic circumstances. It’s brought home some of the root causes and consequences of poor mental health and poverty.
Tell us about yourself
I started off as an English teacher in Vietnam and Romania, before qualifying as a secondary school teacher back in the UK. I’ve also spent four years working for the Dogs Trust, teaching children how to keep safe around dogs – now, it’s money…so, same same!
The number one thing I hear in this job is: “Why didn’t I learn this in school?!”
To date, I’ve found no practical use for Pythagoras’ theory but I do remember needing help with budgeting – especially when I first lived at university. I felt I was good at managing money because I’d had small earnings from part time jobs for a few years, but it was an entirely different experience trying to budget large student loan deposits across three months. I was lucky enough to have supportive parents who helped me out. Without them, I would have fallen into debt and struggled financially.
What have you seen on the frontline?
In general, I’ve found a lot of bravado from young Scots: they often have a front that suggests they’re not interested in financial education. In reality, they’re often feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed – they don’t want to admit there are things they don’t know about money, particularly in front of others.
It’s a taboo subject and fits into a general trend across the UK where we’re reluctant to discuss money and the issues surrounding it. As a result, I find the young people gain much more from the MyBnk sessions than they expect to. There are so many areas of money management they had no idea even existed. Exposure to this in our sessions boosts their confidence and overall understanding.
What are you delivering in Scotland?
- ‘Money Works’ – A two part programme for 16-25 year olds not in education, employment or training. Our sessions explore survival money management, including budgeting, living independently, banking and borrowing.
- ‘Money Twist’ – A series of primary school based sessions for 7-11 year olds focusing on forging positive money habits such as saving and delaying spending gratification.
- ‘Enterprise-in-a-Box’ – A two week challenge giving young people the practical experience of running their own social enterprise by teaching them how to sell exclusive ethical products in their community.
Where are you delivering it?
Our young adults offerings are delivered across the wider Glasgow area and we are rapidly expanding in Falkirk, Edinburgh, Ayrshire and Fife. I’ve recently delivered in Glasgow Clyde College, City of Glasgow College and Edinburgh College. Our Primary workshops are being delivered in Edinburgh and Dundee schools such as Ardler Primary School.
Who is funding you?
Who are your partners?
Through the Prince’s Trust, we’re working with 13 different partners on their employability programmes on a rolling basis. We’ve also made connections with Family Action in Rogerfield and Easterhouse (FARE) and have worked with their Stage 1 and 3 employability groups.
Demand for our programmes is outstripping supply. We want all young people to receive a meaningful financial education – so we need more supporters to help expand delivery of our ‘Money Works’ programme, work across a wider area, increase our partner base and fully establish our whole school-based programmes.