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Ca$hEd Up program teaches students the financial facts of life

QCoal Foundation commenced a social venture partnership with the Financial Basics Community Foundation in 2017 to improve financial resilience and capability for young Australians, with a particular focus on those living in regional and remote communities.

The Foundation was driven to address this issue in light of research which identified that over 60% of Australian adults are facing some level of financial stress or vulnerability with over 2 million people experiencing high levels of financial stress. According to the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics (HILDA) survey people under 25 are the least financially literate in Australia.

Further, younger people are typically more likely to experience severe financial stress than older people, and financial stress is a key factor in many areas of mental health, family violence and poverty across Australia. Research also supports the view that the Australian population is most vulnerable in financial knowledge and behaviour, with almost half of the population identifying themselves as having low to very low financial knowledge.

To address these challenges, the Ca$hED Up – Developing Financial Skills for Life program was developed and rolled out to schools, initially in Queensland and the Northern Territory and then right across Australia.

Traditionally, financial capability is addressed in the Australian curriculum in specialist subjects such as mathematics, business, social science and economics and it is up to individual schools to develop and apply financial capability within these subjects. This can mean that not all students are accessing financial capability material.

The Ca$hED Up program is different. The program was specifically designed to be delivered by secondary school teachers as part of a general life skills curriculum. Lesson materials allow teachers to “pick up and go” or to adjust to suit the local context as required. The goal is that all secondary students have access to financial capability training as a Life Skill rather than as part of a specialist subject.

With four modules aligned to the Australian curriculum and the National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework, the Ca$hEd Up material is completely flexible, allowing schools to deliver any module to any year level.
During the first stage of the trial the program was offered at twelve schools across regional Queensland with over 1,500 Year 7 to Year 12 students participating, typically through a Life Skills or Pathways program.

During that trial 95% of students indicated they thought it was important to learn about money and personal finance and over 90% indicated they had conversations or sought advice about money after completing the course. Teacher feedback has commended the “hands on” nature of the lesson materials and 98% of teachers said they would run the course again and would recommend it to their colleagues.

In the second stage of the trial, more than 1500 students from Queensland and the Northern Territory participated in Ca$hEd Up.

Again the results were very positive with over 93% of students saying it was important to learn about money and personal finances and over 87% indicating they wanted to learn more about a range of other financial topics. Critically over 80% of students felt more informed and confident about making their own financial decisions after completing one or more of the Ca$hEd Up modules.

For the QCoal Foundation, one of the most important findings was the positive shift in self-reported behaviours and attitudes in dealing with money and personal finance. This was reinforced by conversations between students and teachers and, in a further positive outcome for the program, extended to financial conversations with family and friends outside the classroom.

While the planned Australia-wide rollout in 2020 was somewhat impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, results from the nationwide expansion will be used to further evidence the effectiveness of the program and to shape future program content.

With the nationwide rollout of the Ca$hEd Up program, the QCoal Foundation’s role has transitioned to Founding Donor.

CEO Sylvia Bhatia said the Foundation was proud of the partnership with FBCF and the results of the trial.

“As Founding Donor, we retain a strong interest in this program and its continued uptake in schools,” Ms Bhatia said.

“We understand FBCF is continuing to review options to digitise and expand the program to enhance its future sustainability among its suite of financial literacy options.”

The trial confirmed our view that all students should have access to financial literacy education through the Life Skills component of the curriculum – we believe this is a fundamental finding and one which we have shared with others in the financial education sector.”