The Bank at Bell Lane

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Beating the crunch- the bank at Bell Lane



Bell Lane School in Little Chalfont has had a school bank for over 3 years now. Run by the children, it is open to all children and staff in the school. In this article they tell us how this valuable opportunity to learn economic awareness works.


Bell Lane Combined School is situated in Little Chalfont, a leafy area in Buckinghamshire.

It is a single form entry school with an age range of 3-11 and 173 pupils on roll. Of these pupils, just under 50% are on the SEN register with 30  statements of Special Educational Needs. The local catchment includes areas of low socio-economic backgrounds and many pupils come from single parent families. The school believes in a holistic approach to learning, and understands the importance of supporting pupils’ academic skills alongside life skills.

The pilot

In 2005 the school was invited to take part in a pilot scheme by pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group). Pfeg is an independent charity organisation, supporting children’s financial capability. They had created a handbook for primary schools which Bell Lane School were encouraged to try out and provide feedback on. It was felt that the pupils at Bell Lane would greatly benefit from support in learning about this life skill which linked very closely to the Every Child Matters outcome, Achieve Economic Wellbeing.

After taking part in the pilot, we used the audit tool from the handbook to find out what the pupils knew about Financial Capability. The results were worrying, although not particularly surprising! Most children had little or no understanding of any aspect of Financial Capability. This was true of all children and not specific to children from a particular background. I was then given the opportunity to teach Financial Capability to classes 3-6 for 1 hour a week.

When planning my lessons, I was keen to create projects rather than individual lessons. These projects would enable lessons to cross into different curriculum areas as well as being more interesting for the children. With this in mind, I decided to start a school bank with children in Year 6. I began the project in September 2005 and only had two main aims in mind:


1. that the children would run the bank entirely on their own (therefore not relying on any particular staff member)

2. that the bank would continue to run year after year. 

Setting the scene

Over the Autumn term 2005, I used my 1 hour per week with year 6 to practise their mental calculations so preparing them for handling money. The children were to make their own action plan as it was important that the pupils had ownership of the project. Pupils came up with ideas and made all the decisions, my role was simply to guide them.

The lessons often consisted of preparing resources (the children had decided to cover the account books by hand), while discussing such topics as why we should have a school bank, what and how it would benefit the children etc. These discussions were possibly the most rewarding part of the whole project as I listened to children reasoning and justifying their ideas and comments to each other, and really taking the whole project seriously.

By the Spring term 2006, the pupils had organised themselves into teams: a manager and deputy manager who would oversee the running of the bank, an accounting team who would keep track of the money and records, and an advertising team who would market the bank to the rest of the school and help raise money for resources. Pupils from the advertising team designed the bank’s logo and handmade the account books. Accountants helped design a spreadsheet to record transactions and prepared the ledger. All pupils were involved in some aspect of preparing the school bank.

In order to raise money for resources (such as calculators, pens, ledger pads etc) the pupils held a fundraising day at school. Our local secondary school, The Amersham School, has gained Business Enterprise status, and we were therefore lucky enough to gain support from them, both financially (they supplied the bank with a laptop) and from one of their staff members who had previously been a bank manager. She was able to come in and meet with the bank’s Management Team, question them on what they were doing, and also answer questions and give advice.

The Grand Opening

The bank opened officially after half term, February 2006. The Year 6 children had made posters and informed the other children in an assembly about the bank, and the importance of saving. The bank was to be a very simple savings bank where pupils could open an account, be given a unique account number, deposit their money and   save towards something specific.

The bank opened once a week on a Friday during playtime. Records of transactions were kept on the laptop and on the ledger and were balanced regularly. They were also written in the account books so the customer would have their own record of transactions relating to their account. Once the bank was open, the hour lesson was used to review how the bank was doing, ensure the laptop and ledger records matched and write reports to the Headteacher and other investors.

By the end of that academic year there were more than 30 children and two staff members with school bank accounts. News travelled about the bank, and the children were invited to do a presentation at a National Headteacher’s conference at Villa Park, the home of Aston Villa football club in Birmingham. Only two children were able to go, so we held auditions and short interviews, asking the children about the bank and saving. Through this process, two children were selected and we drove to Birmingham to present. Listening to the children talk and answer questions about the bank and Financial Capability in general made me realise how much the children had gained from this project.

Subsequent years

Each year since it began, pupils from Year 6 have added their own touch to the bank. One class created incentives for pupils to open an account  and make regular deposits. In order to achieve this, they had to hold a fundraising event to buy the lucky dip prizes. They decided to sell Christmas biscuits which they made themselves. Straight away we had a sub-project which covered a huge number of other curriculum areas.

This sub-project really extended their Financial Capability knowledge and understanding as they had to borrow money from the school to buy the ingredients (covering loans, repayment, gross and net profit), and look into best buys  before purchasing the items. This class was unique in its make-up with only 15 children in the class, and 11 of them with statements.

As it was such a small class, they were all able to take a very active roll in the bank and they added a job – security guard – who would ensure the customers lined up sensibly, and accompanied the cashiers to the office where the cash box was stored under lock and key. They were  asked to present at County Healthy Schools forums, and a County Healthy Schools conference. As there were three separate presentations, all the children in the class got the opportunity to present at least once.

This year’s class have made vouchers for staff to use to ‘pay’ pupils for certain jobs around school. The Amersham School donated £50 to the school bank, and the children decided they would like to start a direct debit type system. The vouchers can be taken to the bank and the amount of the voucher will automatically be deposited into their account.  Different staff members now take on the responsibility for overseeing the bank and currently one of our Graduate Training Programme students, Alison Arnott, has taken on this role.

The school bank has achieved its two aims: the children run the bank and it's still going. By starting small, the children have been able to have complete control  and  have been able to add their own developments each year. It has been invaluable in encouraging children to consider the importance of saving and understand just how a banking system works.


For more information, please do not hesitate to contact the school or visit Pfeg’s website