Apprentice Blog – Money, politics and an MP @ Shirley High School

Written by , July 1, 2013

  Last week I went to Shirley High School for a marathon financial and political...


Last week I went to Shirley High School for a marathon financial and political education all-dayer with 270 Year 10s students.

MyBnk teamed up with Bite the Ballot bringing Money Twist: My Money, debates and games to help young people connect personal finance to public finance and understand why and how governments make decisions.

Filled up with this knowledge the students would then have the chance to grill their local MP Gavin Barwell for Croydon Central and PPS to Education Secretary Michael Gove (with questions, not burgers).

The acid test

As we set out some of the nuts and bolts around payslips, tax, national insurance, government spending, minimum wage and careers – many interesting things emerged from what the young people thought they knew about money and reality.

It was interesting to find out that more or less all of the three classes I sat in didn’t think 37.5 hours was a full working week, I mean it’s a little less than 8 hours a day but it’s surprising that so few thought that this is actually a normal working week for most people, I bet they were pleased to find out they probably won’t be doing 70 hours a week when they are employed!

The difference between thoughts on the minimum wage was interesting as well, some thought that 16-17 year olds got paid £7 an hour. If only!

One consensus I found chin stroking was that most students didn’t think they could comfortably live off £150,000 a year.

Pupils also had the chance to carve up the state’s coffers and decide where to prioritise spending. Unsurprisingly education comes out top, but so did budgets for the police (many saying they didn’t feel safe enough) and health. Government spending on pensions however, repeatedly came dead last.

Bite the Ballot’s sessions used the power of debate and local issues such as the new Westfield shopping complex coming to Croydon to connect issues like jobs, environment and the changing make up of locals. The ante was upped though as talk turned to the death penalty and the class evenly divided on the issue.

Question time

At the end of the day there were some fantastic questions pitched at Gavin Barwell MP about finance and spending.

The Department for Education man explained the reform of the National Curriculum and admitted young people their age did have it tough compared to previous generations – Gavin was very passionate about the quality of education students receive and recommended more schools utilise experts in niche areas like personal finance and politics.

A guilty secret, my favourite question: how MPs were going to die soon and didn’t he feel they were just setting up problems for future generations to deal with. Controversial!

One dropdown day, but a huge impact that saw young people about to enter that next phase of their life, deciding careers and courses, starting to demystify money management, sparking wider economic awareness and engaging with politics in ways they’ve never done before.

By Georgina Polydorou, Apprentice Communication Officer

What did you think of specialist life skills education days? Tweet @MyBnk – @GavinBarwellMP – @Bitetheballot