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Financial capability in action

The Upper Harbour Sorted Schools (UHSS) is a cluster of nine Auckland schools that worked together during 2014 and 2015 to embed financial capability across the curriculum. This initiative was organised by the Commission for Financial Capability. The aim of the UHSS was to improve engagement with financial capability across an entire school: teachers, students, and the surrounding community.

In this section, you will find ideas, stories, templates, and lesson plans developed by the school cluster. This material has been shared to help you build a stronger focus on financial capability in your own school settings.

Integrating financial capability

Financial capability is highlighted in The New Zealand Curriculum as an example of the type of theme that schools could use for effective cross-curricular teaching and learning programmes. This page offers ideas, resources, and advice to help schools begin to integrate financial capability into their curriculum.

Action-plan framework | Staff meetings | Working with parents | Planning approaches | Words of wisdom

Action-plan framework for financial capability

Plastic toy coins.

Before you begin teaching financial capability it is useful to reflect on what financial education you are currently providing and what your next steps will be.

An action-plan framework for financial capability has been developed by the Upper Harbour Sorted Schools (UHSS) for this purpose. The action plan describes five phases of financial capability from pre-emerging through to empowering.

Lead teachers from the UHSS created indicators for each phase of financial capability, using the following dimensions to guide their thinking:

  • teaching and learning
  • professional development
  • leadership and strategic direction
  • beyond the classroom.

The action plan was used at the start of each school's journey in financial capability. School leaders and teachers identified where they currently sat within each dimension and the steps they needed to take to move to the next phase.

The financial capability action plan is available as a word download for your own use. You can adapt the descriptors within each phase and add more dimensions to suit the needs and aspirations of your school community.

Word 2007 icon. Financial capability action plan framework (Word 2007, 65 KB)

Using the action-plan framework as a tool for ongoing review

You can use the action-plan framework to monitor your progress in the implementation of financial capability.

Lead teachers from the UHSS marked their action plans in different colours at different moments in time to track their journey. Some teachers also wrote on the action plan, recording the steps that they took to achieve specific phases.

In the example below, Browns Bay Primary School has colour coded and dated their action plan to show their progress. The blue text indicates the phase that is currently being worked on.

Ideas for staff meetings

Lead teachers from the UHSS held staff meetings to:

  • help their staff realise the importance of financial capability
  • help their staff improve their own financial capability
  • work collaboratively to consider ways of integrating financial capability across the curriculum.

Some of the activities and resources from UHSS staff meetings are shared below for your own use. Adapt them to suit your own school context.

Share your money stories

Watch two short videos that share one teacher's money stories:

Ask your teachers to share their own experiences with money, using the following starter questions:

  • What is your earliest experience with money?
  • What is your worst money moment?
  • What is your best money moment?

This activity could also be extended to students, parents, whānau, and the wider community.

Financial capability progressions

Teachers working around a table.

Share the financial capability progressions with your staff. Ask teachers to work in syndicates or whānau groups to identify the financial capability concepts they are already teaching. Ask them to consider which concepts they could begin to build into their programmes. Allow time for collaborative planning and identification of suitable resources.

Revisit the financial capability progressions in future staff meetings to check progress and plan for deeper integration.

Word 2007 icon. Financial Capability Progressions (Word 2007, 58 KB)

"These progressions have enabled us to identify where we currently sit on the spectrum and what next steps are involved to enable financial capability to be embedded."

Emma Johnson, Takapuna Grammar School.

Find out your teachers' needs

Ask teachers to reflect on their own strengths and gaps in financial capability. What do they need to learn to improve their own financial capability? Invite financial experts to your school during the year to run short workshops on different topics. Teachers themselves may have sufficient skills and knowledge to lead a session or prepare supporting resources.

These PowerPoint slideshows were created and used at Westlake Girls College to improve teachers' personal financial management.

PowerPoint 2007 icon. Staff muscling up, savings (PowerPoint 2007, 45 KB)

PowerPoint 2007 icon. Staff muscling up, investments (PowerPoint 2007, 43 KB)

PowerPoint 2007 icon. Staff muscling up, credit cards (PowerPoint 2007, 53 KB)

Working with parents  

Some schools in the Upper Harbour Sorted cluster worked with their parent community to seek their input and expertise in the design of financial capability learning programmes and find out what skills and knowledge parents needed to improve their own financial capability.

Takapuna Grammar School and Upper Harbour Primary School created online surveys for this purpose.

Your school might like to adapt these surveys for your own use or plan a face-to-face hui to connect with parents.

Planning approaches

Many teachers from the UHSS taught money concepts in their mathematics programmes. The UHSS initiative challenged them to teach broader financial concepts and understandings outlined in the financial capability progressions and find ways to integrate financial capability across the curriculum. Here are some approaches that they used.

Aligning financial capability with big units of work
Several schools identified opportunities to include financial capability in their big units or themes for inquiry. For example, teachers from Target Road Primary School and Hobsonville Point Secondary School brainstormed ways that financial capability might fit into their broader topics.

Word 2007 icon. Integrating financial capability into diversity unit, Target Road School (Word 2007, 53 KB)

Word 2007 icon. Integration of financial capability at Hobsonville Point Secondary School (Word 2007, 53 KB)

Using the financial capability progressions as a starting point for planning 
Junior teachers at Upper Harbour Primary and Browns Bay School used the financial capability progressions as their focal point for planning. They developed activities that would help students achieve specific progressions.

PDF icon. Upper Harbour Primary, financial overview for junior classes (PDF, 225 KB)

Word 2007 icon. Browns Bay School – Planning using the financial capability progressions (Word 2007, 54 KB)

Involving students in budgeting for school events
Some UHSS schools involve students in budgeting for school events to help them improve their financial capability. At Hobsonville Point Secondary School students budget for all real-life learning projects. They use budgeting forms that are submitted to the school's business manager for approval. Years five and six students from Target Road School investigated prices for their school camp. Other classes at the school helped to calculate costs for school trips. 

Word 2007 icon. Is camp expensive? Target Road School (Word 2007, 52 KB)

Financial capability projects
Many teachers planned specific financial capability projects, which enabled students to develop financial skills and knowledge and meet learning outcomes in different subject areas.

Students from Browns Bay School took part in a holiday destination project where they planned a $10,000 family holiday. Year five and six students from Torbay School organised a bake sale for Kiwis for Kiwi. Through these projects, students achieved learning outcomes in English, social sciences, and mathematics and statistics. More information about these projects, including activity sheets and templates, can be found in primary ideas.

Arcade game at Torbay Primary School's market day

Planning school-wide activities
Some schools planned school-wide activities where all classes were immersed in learning about financial capability. For example, Torbay Primary School ran a fundraising project to raise money for a student who needed medical assistance. Each class planned and ran different fundraising activities, which included arcade games, puppet shows, and a baking sale. Upper Harbour Primary School ran a concentrated school-wide programme of financial education during Money Week.

Word 2007 icon. Money Week newsletter – Upper Harbour Primary School (Word 2007, 2 MB)

Words of wisdom

Teachers from the UHSS were asked to share key success factors for embedding financial capability across their curriculum. Here is their advice to others:


  • View financial capability as a context for learning areas, not an additional subject.
  • Try to integrate financial capability across as many learning areas as you can.

Strategic planning

  • Prepare and follow a financial capability action-plan framework that is regularly updated.
  • Enlist a group of teachers to form a financial capability committee with at least two passionate and motivated leaders.
  • Involve the local community as you develop a vision and a plan for financial capability.


  • Teacher's enthusiasm is the key to success.
  • Make lessons fun, hands-on, and real to life.
  • Keep the programme alive with plenty of inspiring and lively discussions.


  • Start small – if it can't be a whole school focus, try rolling it out class by class.
  • Hold regular staff meetings to encourage teacher reflection and involvement.
  • Collaborative planning keeps the task easier for everyone.
  • Working with a cluster of schools helps with ongoing support and ideas.

Next – Primary ideas

Published on: 18 Jan 2016