LOAN sharks will never sink their teeth into school children in Worcester thanks to an awareness campaign and young savers scheme.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team, which works in partnership with Worcestershire Regulatory Services to investigate and prosecute loan sharks, launched a competition during an assembly at Gorse Hill Community Primary School, in Tolladine, Worcester, to design a banner to help raise awareness of the dangers they pose.
The winner was Abi Baker, aged 11, whose banner is now on display at the front of the school.
“I chose the colours red and blue so it stands out and shows the dangers of loan sharks,” she said.
The design, for which she won a £20 shopping voucher, includes a shark and fish swimming and the clever message: “To sharks you are just a fish – don’t get schooled.”
Anthony Quigley, from the Illegal Money Lending Team based at Birmingham City Council, said Gorse Hill had been one of a few schools chosen to trial the programme which included lessons on finance and loan sharks for children aged between five and 11 and another set of lesson plans for 11 to 18 year olds.
He said: “It’s been funded by loan sharks – when we catch them, we seize their proceeds of crime and that goes into this project, so effectively they are paying for the children’s education.”
Because the campaign was so successful, headteacher Vivienne Cranton agreed to start a Young Savers Scheme at Gorse Hill.
Every pupil will get a Pass Book from 6Towns Credit Union, based in West Bromwich, which will allow them to bank their money at the school.
Education Minister Michael Gove and Worcester MP Robin Walker were invited to a special assembly to launch the savers scheme and find out more about the financial campaign.
Mr Walker, who has backed a Bill to curb loan sharks and payday lending, said he was glad people were being made aware of the effects of debt at a young age with the likes of campaigns like these and that financial education has been added to the national curriculum.
While presenting the loan shark lesson plans at the assembly to the headteacher, who will continue the education, he said: “I am really excited about the fact that you are teaching people about money.
"I have been involved in lots of debates about why we should be teaching people about money.
"I am proud that Gorse Hill is leading the way and I am sure that they are lighting the way for the rest of the country to follow.”
Mr Gove said it was underestimated how much influence children had on their parents when it came to information and decisions, so this type of education would reach many generations with a positive effect.