We are very proud of this award-winning, innovative school-based economic system which has received national acclaim from the Financial Education community as well as being showcased on national television (the BBC's The One Show) and in the national press.
In 2018 we began an applied learning programme for our Year 6 pupils: the Purple Pounds, an entire within-school market economy system, with Year 6 earning, spending, selling, saving, borrowing, managing, and even banking. Since then, this has further developed into a highly sophisticated, more complex self-financing economy.
The overall aim of the Purple Pounds programme is to immerse pupils in finance culture, to equip them with advanced financial skills from a very young age. The scheme is advertised to Year 5 pupils in the summer, as part of a Careers Week, with Year 6 pupils describing their experiences of the previous year. The Year 5 pupils are then able to apply for a huge list of jobs, though it is not compulsory, and any pupils can drop out of the programme if they like. Despite it being voluntary, however, there is overwhelming demand from pupils to participate because of the prestige, responsibilities, and opportunities to be treated more like adults by the teachers. Pupils tend to take the entire experience extremely seriously.
We create jobs for all applicants, and pupils also help by coming up with suggestions for potential roles they might fill. They still go through an application process, must pitch new roles themselves, write CVs, get invited to interviews or not (for more competitive roles), and get trained by teachers or support staff.
Pupils typically do their jobs during only one or two playtimes per week, in 20-minute stints, though those taking on greater responsibilities might do more. The roles add real value to other children at the school. Pupils act as library monitors, oversee and organise team sports in the playground, read with younger pupils, and even offer translation services for younger pupils when they share a first language.
Each week, the pupils then go to our internal bank – again, run and managed by the pupils themselves – and are given their earnings (not in real money, but in Purple Pounds). They then decide whether to save it in the bank or to spend their earnings at the Purple Pounds Emporium – an opportunity for them to learn about saving, to distinguish between needs and wants, and practise budgeting. The pupil-run Emporium stocks a range of items – small toys and stationery items – with pupils themselves undertaking its management and taking on all its responsibilities: they do the selling, stock-taking, pricing, as well as even buying the stock to sell.
When the scheme started, it was with an annual 'real-money' budget of £300, with which to buy the emporium’s stock. Once the scheme became more established, however, it became fully self-financing through creating an “Eventerprise Team”: please see the Eventerprise tab on the right to find out more!
Through the Purple Pounds system, pupils gain very real experience of teamwork, management and leadership, having to make sure that other pupils are turning up for their jobs and performing them, and even learning to handle potentially challenging situations like what to do when other pupils are don't turn up for work or need help and support to carry out their role.
The reaction from parents has been overwhelmingly positive, with some parents volunteering to help: we're very grateful to one parent who came in to give the pupils advice about how to do interviews, and talked about how they interviewed candidates in their own managerial role as well as responsibilities in the workplace.
Year 6 pupils at the Careers Fair love to show off to the year below, and they tend to become extremely curious about financial concepts like profit and loss and opportunity cost, because they have real-world relevance to them.
This scheme has become increasingly sophisticated over time, as we have discovered just how much more complexity the pupils are able to handle. The bank has introduced loans, so that pupils can purchase items from the emporium earlier than otherwise. The pupils who act as Bank Manager and Purple Pound Supervisor interview the candidates for the loan, examine their time-sheets, and assess their risk. By introducing loans, pupils have also had the opportunity to learn how they work, to be warned about predatory lending practices, and about where the money comes from.
The Purple Pounds scheme shows the extraordinary potential of applied learning even in the context of limited resources. Although the later creation of an Eventerprise team requires pupils (and thus also some responsible adults) to be able to volunteer their time for after-school one-off events, the core of the Purple Pound takes place during scheduled break times during the school day. This is especially important as it makes the scheme accessible to all pupils.
Although the Purple Pound scheme often complements academic work, it does not reward academic achievement, as we want pupils to give up and thus value their own free time for their tasks, rather than simply having it as part of lessons – a foundational principle of the culture of finance. This is, again, about making the scheme accessible to all pupils.