Jun 13

Which Bank? Reflections on School Banking

coinsI remember school banking when I was a child. I remember the grey bank books, the elephant-shaped money box and the weekly routine of putting my school bank book with 50c or $1 into the collection and the book coming back with a freshly inked stamp marking my deposit.

And, of course, I remember the Commonwealth Bank looming large in the background of all these memories, since they had the exclusive rights to facilitate a school banking program.

Fast forward 30+ years and the CBA still seems to hold the monopoly on talking to kids about banking. I’m not a fan of this situation, so I’ve simply chosen to bypass the school banking process with my children and set up accounts for them at the financial institution of my choice. Consumer choice, what a novel concept.

Last week, my 9-year-old son came home from school waxing lyrical about the benefits of opening a new bank account with the CBA. You give them your pocket money, he said, and you get rewards and you can win a family holiday, our whole family could have a holiday if I open this account.

This annoyed me quite a bit. Sending a note home to inform parents that school banking, exclusively through the CBA, is available is one thing, easily ignored if you aren’t interested. Promotional presentations at school, particularly involving emotionally manipulative marketing techniques, is another.

I was tempted to pull on my ranty pants, especially when my son was quite upset that I wouldn’t let him open an account. To his mind, I was denying him rewards and prizes and, potentially, a wonderful family holiday for us all. How could I be so mean?

I chose to simply take a deep breath and move on, assuming that this promotion was a one off event. ‘Pick your battles’, I told myself as I folded the ranty pants and put them away.

My simmering annoyance developed into something far more volatile this morning when I arrived at school with my children to find a large vertical banner outside the school office promoting the CBA children’s accounts. Inside was a representative of the bank, ready and willing to sign people up with school banking accounts. Lucky us.

Did I miss the memo that explained that it is okay to allow a company access to advertise to children on school property? Am I the only person who feels that the Commonwealth Bank should not be provided with opportunities to exclusively promote their products and business to impressionable young minds?

Of course, it isn’t just the CBA creeping through the school gates to influence our children. A friend recently commented that her son’s school was taking students on a visit to the Apple store to learn about a new App. I wasn’t all that impressed when my children’s school announced last year that iPads would be the tablet of choice for use in the primary classes and the school would, as the program developed, be looking to parents to provide devices for their primary-aged children for use in class.

Do we now need to be aware of product placement in schools in the same way we are in movies and television programs?

A friend commented that my concerns about the CBA in schools are unfounded. The school banking program has been in place for decades and simply encourages children to develop healthy banking habits.

I can see her point, but I personally would prefer to see age-appropriate information about budgeting and developing a healthy attitude to money, rather than a single business telling kids that they should open an account with them because they will get prizes.

Does your child’s school run the school banking program? Would you be happy for this to extend to in school promotions? I’m honestly interested to hear what people think.

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  1. Nathan

    I think all public primary schools run the CBA program, and to be honest I have not given it much thought before. I do think a big banner and someone waiting to sign you up is a step too far, though! I don’t have an issue if a school decides that iPads are the tool they want to use, but if a public school is telling parents to prepare to purchase devices, that is not appropriate. Many private schools have had expectations of laptops and other equipment for a long time, and that conversation needs to happen between parents and schools when it comes time to pay fees and enrol each year.
    It is worth noting that the state government is already engaged in promoting PC’s and Microsoft products, as that is what every Year 9 student receives. As a teacher I have seen these devices do little more than distract students, and to be honest a wi-fi enabled Kindle, or even an ipod, would be a far more useful tool in my classroom.
    Also (because, hey this comment is not long enough already! :D) with the “Local Schools, Local Decisions” legislation every public school in NSW will become responsible for the management of its own finances (as opposed from a central DET). They will be able to choose who they purchase things from, and even draw on sponsorship in order to cover costs. It might take a few years, but don’t be surprised to see corporate sponsorship coming to a school near you!

  2. Miss Maudy

    CBA is the school bank of choice at my kids’ school. They’ve both come home with totally awesome like you know we could win a iThing mummy competitions and showbags and the like. They both have bank accounts with the CBA anyway (opened by my mum when they were born)so I’ve just told them you can’t have more than one bank account at a time when you’re a kid. They’re down with that. Our school is getting a bit more into ‘sponsorship’ which is more of a donation to the school fete and a mention of the big names in the school newsletter – the vast majority of the ‘sponsors’ are local small businesses so I don’t mind so much.
    Miss Maudy´s last blog post ..30 Day Challenge: Day 2 Where I’d like to be in ten years

  3. Susan Graham

    I disagree, CBA IS creeping through the school gates to influence our children. Seriously, when the kids get older, like you and I did, we opened our CBA accounts because we know them from when we were kids. CBA is going gang busters in so many areas because there are so many other bank players out there now.
    Susan Graham´s last blog post ..As good as it gets?

  4. lizzy allan

    Luckily, my son’s school hasn’t gone down that road yet, but I remember participating in the Dollarmites program when I was at school. I remember feeling ‘poor’ becuase my mum would give me 50c each banking day and most of the other kids had $5 or $10 each time! I think money and banking should be a private thing; I don’t find it attractive hearing kids talk about money.
    lizzy allan´s last blog post ..What would YOU do with 12 children??

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