Scotland's Credit Unions: Investing in Our Future

Report of the Credit Union Working Group. Review of their work and recommendations to make Scotland an enabling environment for credit unions.

Theme two: Financial education

48. This section will examine aspects of financial education in Scotland reviewed by the Working Group.

Scotland's schools and junior savers

49. A number of credit unions in Scotland engage with children and young people via junior saver schemes. These seek to embed a savings ethos amongst the students at a young age, by holding regular collections of children's savings in the school. In order to really achieve buy-in from the pupils, such collections should be geared towards a clear outcome, for example saving towards a school trip or residential experience.

50. Mr Ewing and Dr Allan, the Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages, visited Lanarkshire Credit Union in May 2015 to learn more about their Savvy Savers initiative, their approach in primary and secondary schools and the challenges they have encountered. They visited Livingstone Memorial Primary School to see the collection process; and met with teachers from two secondary schools.

51. The Group sought to gain a picture of current activity and in 2014 officials carried out a mapping exercise via the main credit union representatives. 51 credit unions responded.

Percentage of responding credit unions operating a primary school junior saver scheme

Percentage of responding credit unions operating a primary school junior saver scheme

Percentage of responding credit unions operating a secondary school junior saver scheme

Percentage of responding credit unions operating a secondary school junior saver scheme

52. The Working Group found that there were other junior saver initiatives being delivered across Scotland; all with slightly different approaches.

53. Feedback from credit unions underlined how difficult it was to actually maintain a scheme. Successful schemes relied on a champion, usually a teacher or member of the administrative staff, to provide enthusiasm and consistency in collection. When this person moved on, the scheme tended to fall through, highlighting the need for adequate succession planning in any such initiative. One credit union reported difficulty engaging with secondary school pupils, with this age group showing very little interest in saving. Having a clear outcome for the saving scheme, as mentioned above, would help embed it within the school's programme of "enterprise" activities. Lanarkshire Credit Union's successful Savvy Savers scheme enlists secondary school pupils to run it, giving them ownership of the process and allowing them to develop skills in enterprise, money handling and marketing.

54. It was also recognised that the participating credit unions were experiencing difficulties either with access to secondary schools and/or with collection points. It was highlighted that junior savers schemes were normally loss making and therefore not sustainable without additional resources being secured. The costs varied depending on the model being used and the level of involvement from pupils, volunteers and teachers. Local authorities have complete autonomy in how Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence is delivered, and in prioritising curriculum support activities. Credit unions have a key role to play here, in highlighting to a school how this work is helping them to achieve their outcomes, particularly in developing the young workforce and teaching enterprise skills. However, unless the credit unions/local authority staff have the capacity to continually re-enforce the message about savings on a regular basis (through information events via school assemblies, parent-teacher meetings, etc.), the initiative will be more challenging to sustain.

55. If funding can be obtained, a dedicated project worker, such as those employed in Savvy Savers, can make all the difference to the success of such initiatives, providing the required level of consistency. Alison Dowling, of Renfrewshire Wide Credit Union advised that 'Time and again credit unions have invested in establishing successful primary school and nursery collections, only for the take-up to fade over time due to the other pressures of school life taking priority or the internal project champions moving on. When a development worker is in contact with the school the momentum is maintained.'

56. Glasgow City Council's Future Savers initiative (in collaboration with Scotwest Credit Union) was launched on 7 January 2014, and saw every S1 pupil in Glasgow provided a credit union account and opening balance of £10. Given that the initiative has now been operating for almost two years, Glasgow City Council's evaluation will be helpful in assessing the impact of the Future Savers approach, in order to determine whether this initiative can be promoted to local authorities nationally. Interim evaluation in 2015 highlighted the necessity for a committed school staff member or adult helper to deliver the scheme consistently in the school for it to be sustainable.

57. It was agreed that there were real benefits to junior savers schemes such as the promotion of a savings habit. The most successful junior savers schemes operated in primary schools. It was agreed it would be helpful to find an initiative that had been successful in moving from primary school to secondary school and use that as a future case study to assist those credit unions and schools who would like to drive forward a junior savers scheme.

58. According to UK Youth, a recent Childwise report indicated that of the 8.6 million children aged 5-16 in the UK, 73% have a laptop, PC or tablet. This indicates that, if utilised effectively, technology may be a key route through which to engage young people in any initiative.

59. A maths teacher at Gleniffer High School has done just that, employing the technology platform Edmodo to engage S1 pupils with Renfrewshire Council's iSave initiative, which is run in partnership with Renfrewshire credit unions. A social media page was produced for the school credit union (which is run by Renfrewshire Wide Credit Union) and students who sign up receive an app for their phones. This enables them to receive the credit union's alerts, texts, news promotions and reminders of collections days.

60. Edmodo access codes are distributed in S1 PSE class visits, as an incentive to join the credit union. Adult staff leads have taken on the role of Edmodo administrators to reply to any enquiries and the site can be set to "read only" when required.

61. The Head Teacher sends his weekly reflections to parents via the app and routinely promotes the credit union through this channel.

62. For older teenagers and young adults, the successful Young Scot card scheme has partnered with Scotwest Credit Union to offer a reward scheme linked to regular savings. Individuals aged 16-25 can sign up to the first Scottish-wide online credit union service for young people. Young Scot Reward Points are earned by opening an account and saving on a regular basis, regardless of the amount. Reward points can go towards tickets to sporting events, backstage passes at gigs and eco driving lessons.

Case study - credit unions in the classroom

Lanarkshire Credit Union's Savvy Savers project is a real success story, helping over 7,000 primary and secondary school pupils save over £650,000. The credit union operates Savvy Savers in 74 primary and five secondary schools in South Lanarkshire alone.

In 2013, Lanarkshire Credit Union received £64,498 from Scottish Government via the People and Communities Fund. The award enabled the credit union to employ two full-time school project workers over a two year period. They have been awarded a further £39,953 for the year 2015/16. This funding is helping local people to take a community-led approach to tackling poverty and inequalities on their own terms.

On 14 May 2015, Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing and Minister for Learning, Dr Alasdair Allan visited Lanarkshire Credit Union and one of its participating schools, David Livingstone Memorial Primary School in Blantyre on a fact-finding mission.

Mr Ewing observed, 'This is a great example of how credit unions and schools can work together locally to play a key role in encouraging young people to understand money and become more financially aware.' Dr Allan added 'Children and local families are reaping the benefits through the close links that have been established with the Savvy Savers project, demonstrating schools very much have a place in the credit union community, just as credit unions play an important role in tackling inequality in our communities.'

Financial education in Curriculum for Excellence

63. As a key element of numeracy provision, financial education is the responsibility of all Scottish teachers and is therefore available at all levels of the curriculum ages 3-18. The aim of financial education in the curriculum is to develop a broadly based financial capability under four key aspects:

  • understanding
  • competence
  • responsibility
  • enterprise.

64. Expected outcomes include the development of skills to assess and evaluate financial risk and gauge the impact of financial decisions, i.e. to ensure people are able to meet the financial challenges they will face.

65. It is explicitly embedded in both numeracy and social studies from early years to the end of the broad general education (BGE) which is S3, when young people are aged around 15. Financial education is also offered within a range of Scottish Qualifications Authority National Qualifications in courses such as Lifeskills Mathematics, Economics and Business Management.

Teaching resources are available for all ages and stages of education and include:

On the Money

This is a collection of four short stories aimed at upper primary school children. A recent evaluation found that it continues to remain relevant and engaging for young people.

Money Talks: Family Finances

This interactive financial education resource is for primary and secondary pupils. The resource gives an insight into the finances of various family members at different stages of life (mother, father, three children, grandmother and auntie). A detailed bank statement and personal profile is provided for each family member, including qualifications, skills and characteristics. This allows children to analyse how the family spends its money, whether any savings are made and how the members of the family and their finances are interconnected.

The case of the financially excluded Barbara (who is described as "unemployed, finds life difficult") enables the introduction of issues around debt, benefits and financial dependency.

66. Education authorities and their schools are ultimately responsible for the management and delivery of the curriculum and the provision of teaching resources. However, Education Scotland has provided a range of teaching materials, some of which may need updating and refreshing.

67. Education Scotland, through the Scottish Financial Education Forum (see below), advises on and assesses the effectiveness of support materials for learners and teachers on an on-going basis.

68. A key to improving the effectiveness of existing provision is a better co-ordination of the range of materials and support available. In addition, over the past couple of years the emphasis has moved from financial education to areas such as the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy and to work around political literacy.

69. The publication of The Financial Capability Strategy for the UK in October 2015, and the resulting Financial Capability Strategy for Scotland in January 2016 gave a new impetus for support to be re-established and will provide an opportunity to refresh materials. These include the 'Cheers for Credit Unions' pages on Education Scotland's website, and a refresh of the Renfrewshire Wide Credit Union curriculum pack.

70. Work is taking place to promote knowledge and understanding through progression in numeracy. Many schools support financial learning through organising "Money Weeks". These involve young people learning about money in all areas of the curriculum and schools can involve community organisations such as credit unions to support these.

71. It is important that young people are able to develop numeracy skills through the use of relevant contexts, including application in real-life situations, and teachers will use approaches which encourage young people to develop an interest in numeracy. This can include a junior savers scheme delivered in partnership with a local credit union.

72. Making Maths Count, a new programme established by Scottish Government in September 2015, will provide an effective route through which to engage with secondary school maths teachers. A sub-group was established to prepare and share resources to support teachers in refocusing Scotland's attitude to maths learning.

The Scottish Financial Education Forum

73. The forum is facilitated by Education Scotland and is a key existing mechanism to share financial education approaches across local authorities and schools. The wide-ranging nature of financial education is recognised by the organisations represented on the forum. At present the active members represent a range of major financial institutions, local authorities, money advice organisations, Young Scot, credit union trade bodies, and Accountant in Bankruptcy.

74. This group meets three times per year and key resources are made available through Glow, Scotland's national digital environment for learning. Glow allows the sharing of teacher-produced resources. It is hoped that there will be increased collaboration through professional learning communities in the delivery of financial education, although Education Scotland's online service is much more important in this context.

Next steps

75. In recognising the importance of junior saver schemes, the Group acknowledged that dedicated project workers could be important to the development of successful and sustainable schemes, and that further investigation into potential sources of funding is required. In addition, credit unions have an important role to play in continuing to share best practice in the running of junior saver schemes via credit union trade bodies or other representatives.

76. For those schools wishing to undertake a junior saving scheme with a partner credit union, it will be important for credit unions to highlight the need for succession planning. This will contribute towards the development of a sustainable scheme.

77. Scottish Government will continue to actively engage with the Scottish Financial Education Forum to highlight successful credit union junior saver schemes in seeking to raise the profile of the sector in increasing the financial capability of our young people.

78. The Forum will also be presented with the results of an evaluation of the Future Savers Initiative in Glasgow following its conclusion. Education Scotland may be able to work with the local authority to evaluate the educational opportunities and learning brought about by these initiatives.

79. Scottish Government are engaging with local authorities, through the Association of Directors of Education, to advocate for the benefit of credit union involvement in financial capability education, and links forged with money advice organisations and local credit unions.

80. The Group felt that "Money Weeks" held in schools would be a good partnership opportunity between schools and local credit unions. Education Scotland are currently evaluating the delivery of these in four schools. They will also share the results of an evaluation of a themed week (Financial Fair Trade Fortnight) at St Catherine's Primary School in Glasgow in 2015. The key learning from this event centred around teachers being given time to collaborate in preparation, support from the school's senior management team, discussion around how the event linked into the school's Improvement Plan, and linking the event to teachers' professional learning in relation to the requirements of the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

81. Financial education could be co-ordinated through the strands of Scottish Government's National Improvement Framework, Developing the Young Workforce agenda and its Making Maths Count programme.

82. Education Scotland, along with Accountant in Bankruptcy and Money Advice Scotland are reviewing the quality and quantity of financial education materials available, including those featuring credit unions.

83. Scottish Government's Making Maths Count programme has scope to consider how technology could best be applied to numeracy learning. Any collaboration between schools and credit unions would require both parties to have the necessary technology (for example Edmodo or similar apps) and at present very few credit unions can offer this.

84. A series of Continuing Professional Development sessions and Glow meets around financial education could be set up for teachers over 2016 in the context of the National Improvement Framework. Money Advice Scotland may partner on this and opportunities for a national financial education conference are being explored in which credit unions could feature. The conference would allow the Scottish Financial Education Forum to share their learning around financial education approaches with a wider audience.

85. Through Glow, Education Scotland could demonstrate to teachers how young people can maximise digital opportunities (particularly around problem-solving activities) and distribute any future financial literacy apps deemed useful. These actions would be linked to on-going work in relation to the Technologies Impact Review.

86. oney Advice Scotland's Financial Capability team will promote ethical lenders including credit unions in their school workshops.


Email: Nadia Bessos

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