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Friday, May 14, 2021

‘Grubby’ corporate school banking programs to end in ACT

Corporate school banking programs, such as Commonwealth Bank’s Dollarmites, will be banned in ACT public schools from July 2021 after a motion was passed unanimously in the Legislative Assembly yesterday afternoon.

ACT Greens spokesperson for education, Jonathan Davis, moved the motion, and said such programs were “grubby” and “ironically, educationally worthless”.

Mr Davis’ argument was supported by evidence from a national report from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) released in December 2020.

The ASIC report found corporate school banking programs claiming to help children develop long-term savings habits did not demonstrate the ability to do so.

It advised young children were “vulnerable consumers” and school banking programs exposed them to “sophisticated advertising and marketing tactics”.

“School banking program providers fail to effectively disclose that a strategic objective of these programs is customer acquisition,” the report said.

ASIC also raised concerns about banks paying schools as an incentive to run corporate school banking programs.

The Victorian Government was the first to act on ASIC’s report, banning school banking programs from the start of 2021.

Australian Education Union (AEU) ACT branch secretary Glenn Fowler commended the Assembly for yesterday’s decision.

He said the union had been calling for this kind of reform for some time, and that school-based financial literacy programs run by big banks were “anachronistic and inappropriate”.

“The recent scathing ASIC report told us, though it didn’t really need to, that the primary interest the big banks have in this is rusting on young children as future mortgage holders and credit card users,” he said.

“This is the equivalent of multinational fast food chains running school canteens, or indeed delivering food studies courses in schools.”

Mr Davis said educating children on financial literacy was important for equality and for their long-term social and economic stability.

“All children should get high quality independent financial literacy education from their school, from their parents and from their communities.”

He said financial literacy was best taught by teachers, because they had an active interest in the education of students, and teaching resources like the Federal Government’s Money Smart site were better quality.

“Teachers, not banks, are best placed to actively work with students to teach them how to identify scams and avoid loan shark companies.”

The end to school banking programs will come into effect from 1st July 2021.

He called for close collaboration between teachers, the Australian Education Union, the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations and the ACT Principals’ Association.

Mr Davis said he looked forward to putting forward more legislation over the next four years that challenged big business and the “stranglehold they have on our communities”.

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