Getting into the habit of saving is child’s play for pupils from Ysgol Trefonnen, thanks to the school’s innovative bank.
The Church in Wales school – in Llandrindod Wells – has teamed up with the Red Kite Credit Union to provide the Hadau Onnen Trefonnen Piggy Bankers scheme, which has been running for 12 months.
Ryan Coleman, the school’s Community Manager, said: “As a community-focused school one of the things we’re very keen to do is to make a positive impact on the lives of our local families. Hopefully, through that, it will have a positive impact on pupils’ outcomes and achievements in school.
“One of the things we realised is that many of our families may well be finding they’re living on credit – or the most expensive forms of credit – so what we’re hoping to do is help our children understand the role of money and the process of saving for things.
“Research shows that by the time a child is seven or eight their attitude to money and spending can be set so what we are hoping to do with our friends from Red Kite is to encourage our children to learn the habit of regular saving.”
The school approached the credit union about 15 months ago about setting up the bank – which operates every Friday morning before school during term time – and the number of regular savers has grown month by month.
David Anderson, the chair of the Red Kite Credit Union, said: “When Ryan contacted us we didn’t have a school bank operating so it was a case of starting from scratch – everything from redesigning specific application forms, passbooks etc. We wanted to badge this for the school rather than just use our general young savers account.”
Pupils at the school came up with the name for the bank and the logo for the cover of its savings books and its advertising posters.
“We spent a few months organising it – this is our first school bank for many years as a credit union, though we’re hoping to have more in time.
“There’s a regular influx of new savers – we currently have 32. In total, since we began a year ago, around £1,000 has been saved, which averages about £100 a month.
“There’s no minimum deposit, it could be 50p or even less, but it’s the idea of coming in regularly and adding to the balance.”
Ryan said: “It’s not about how much children are saving but just getting into that regular habit. We’ve reached the £1,000 mark but that’s not how we’re measuring success, we’re measuring success in the number of savers and the habit of regular saving.”
The school has been keen to promote its bank and events have included a ‘pizza pig-out’, when one of the directors of the credit union, whose child attends Trefonnen, brought along his wood-fired oven to cook the pizzas. Craft activities were also run as part of the event by representatives from the Friends of Trefonnen School.
“We encouraged all families to come along and we had eight new savers on the day,” David said. “It’s obviously something that takes time to build but over time more and more people will get to know about it.”
The bank is also paying dividends in helping children see the process of saving and spending in an increasingly cashless society.
Ryan said: “What we try and do, through the curriculum, is encourage learning about finances, money, savings and how much things cost.”
“Increasingly in our modern economy we’re all using contactless cards and because of that children aren’t seeing the process of money changing hands, or the concept of seeing something you want and saving up for it.”
David said: “It’s also the same with cash machines. A young person might just see money coming out of a hole in the wall, there’s no link unless it’s part of their education.”
The bank has been such a success that Red Kite Credit Union is now in discussions with a second school, and it’s something Ryan is keen to recommend.
David said: “Red Kite is run by volunteers, and we’re always looking for more. We’re in the early stages of discussions with a second school about opening a school bank. We wouldn’t want to limit it to two schools but it’s down to getting some volunteers in that school structure.”
“We’ve had great feedback,” Ryan said. “The kids who come along like the idea of coming up to the counter and parents who are involved think it’s fantastic, they like the link to the school and the curriculum.
“A number of parents, staff and others connected to the school have opened accounts as well, and we’re thinking of using the school as a service point for Red Kite for the wider community.
“As a community-focused school we’re very lucky to have the opportunity to do this but I think that any school, if you’ve got two or three committed volunteers, could do this. And it would benefit the school and the parents of that community.”