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Building financial capability at Avonside Girls’ High School

Alan Clelland, HOD Commerce

Teaching all year 11 and 12 students financial literacy is part of the mission of Avonside Girls’ High School – 'To educate and empower young women to succeed now and into the future'. The aim is to equip all students with the understanding and skills to successfully manage their money by making wise choices about spending, saving, and investing as they progress through their lives.

Alan Clelland developed the school’s financial literacy programme in conjunction with the Young Enterprise Trust. It has been part of the school’s curriculum since 1999. 


The year 11 and 12 courses are designed to provide students with practical personal financial management skills. Students are engaged through practical learning experiences such as games and scenarios. Within relevant contexts such as setting up a flat, getting a job, and exploring student loans, students investigate creating a budget, purchasing insurance, deciding on retirement savings options, and developing an understanding of credit and debt.

The course runs for a term each year and is compulsory for all year 11 and 12 students. Concepts introduced at year 11 are built on and developed in year 12.  


Principle: Future focus – Citizenship

Learning area: Health and Physical Education

Curriculum level 6

Personal growth and development:

  • Students will investigate and understand reasons for the choices people make that affect their well-being and explore and evaluate options and consequences.

Curriculum level 7

Rights, responsibilities, and laws:

  • Students will evaluate laws, policies, practices, and regulations in terms of their contribution to social justice at school and in the wider community.

Key competencies

Managing self

  • Planning for the short and long term, for example budgeting.

Using language, symbols, and texts

  • Using financial symbols, and terminology for own and others' understanding.
  • Calculating and interpreting financial information.
  • Gathering financial information from electronic and other sources.


  • Developing long-term thinking, including understanding different life stages and their financial implications.
  • Thinking critically to compose relevant financial questions.
  • Identifying and deciding on different financial options.
  • Making sense of financial information.

Financial capability progressions

Income and taxation

  • Perform GST and PAYE calculations.

Budgeting and financial management

  • Prepare, monitor, and adjust a given budget to reflect changing financial circumstances, and achieve goals.

Saving and investing

  • Calculate and compare interest rates, including compounding interest, paid by banks and other financial institutions.
  • Compare the advantages and disadvantages of Kiwisaver and other investment products.


  • Evaluate and select personal banking products and services in relation to financial needs.

Credit and debt

  • Identify credit options to manage finances.

Word icon. Year 11 Financial Literacy outline (Word, 42 KB)

Word icon. Year 12 Financial Literacy outline (Word, 40 KB)

In the classroom

At the beginning of each course students are encouraged to ask questions that relate to their personal financial situation. Questions such as: What are bank fees? Do I need insurance? and Is Kiwisaver compulsory? are common.

Students are introduced to, and make use of, online budgeting and planning tools, particularly those on the Sorted and Studylink websites. The Studylink website is particularly relevant for year 12 students as they consider future study, student loans, and living independently.

Alan regularly uses topical events outlined in television programmes such as Target and Fair Go to promote discussion and provide contexts for investigation. Contexts include consumer law, buying goods and services, and identifying phone plans.

Students find the interactive game Skint to Mint a practical way to work through some of the more complex content, such as making informed investment decisions, based on understanding risks and rewards. 

Student feedback

Participating in the course enables students to explore different aspects of managing their personal finances and to make changes in their approaches to managing money. Students have made decisions such as joining Kiwisaver and developing a budget and savings plan to reach a financial goal, such as purchasing a car.

"I have a part-time job and when I realised what I was earning was going down the drain, I started listening to Mr Clelland. Now I save half of what I earn."

Miriam Crowther, Student

"We learn about serious issues we'll face in the future but in a fun way."

 Holly Stanford, Student

Alan has received positive feedback from parents, many of whom express regret that financial literacy was not part of the school curriculum when they were at school. 


Students have the opportunity to reflect on their learning at the end of the course by working through a series of scenarios. On completion of the course, each student receives a certificate for attending and participating. These are included in their CVs.

Questions for discussion

  • Identify and discuss the financial issues your students face.
  • What are the benefits of teaching financial capability to all students?
  • How could you integrate teaching financial capability into your classroom programme? (Use the financial capability progressions for support in identifying key concepts for learning).

Published on: 05 Dec 2013