Gaelcholáiste na Mara has the Money Smarts

With 100pc of schools that took part in the Bank of Ireland Money Smarts Challenge around financial literacy saying they would enter again, Gaelcholáiste na Mara in Wicklow is testament to this.

Financial literacy and capability are key to our financial wellbeing and our overall wellbeing. When we are financially well, we can make better financial decisions for ourselves and the people that matter most in our lives. Yet it is surprising how few people go into life equipped with these basic life skills, only to learn them through hard-earned experience.

The Bank of Ireland Money Smarts Programme  – considered by secondary school teachers to be the number one programme for financial literacy in schools – is key to changing this narrative.

“These days it’s just so easy to go shopping online and lose track of what you are spending. So, it’s important that young people my age equip ourselves with the right financial skills”

Ahead of the deadline for entries for the 2022 Money Smarts Challenge, we spoke to the winners of the 2021 Money Smarts Challenge, Gaelcholáiste na Mara in Arklow, about the impact of the programme.

The team from Gáelcholaiste na Mara emerged victorious at the Money Smarts Challenge in May as Connor Mac Cárthaigh, Micah Young, Rìan Ó Dubháin and Jamie Colmách Ó Ceallaigh triumphed over 11 other student teams from across Ireland to claim the top prize of €25,000 for their school.

The winning team was comprised of business studies students and according to Connor Mac Cárthaigh, it brought much of what they had been learning to life in a tangible way.

“Business studies can be quite heavy at times and is full of definitions, so it is always nice to have something like Money Smarts which spiced it up and made it more fun. It’s a topic that is very important to people, especially people my age and younger. These days it’s just so easy to go shopping online and lose track of what you are spending. So, it’s important that young people my age equip ourselves with the right financial skills.”

Mac Cárthaigh’s business studies teacher, Tiarnán De Hál, echoed Conor’s sentiments, noting the importance of introducing the topic of financial literacy in a way that is meaningful and relevant to these young students’ everyday lives and their experiences right now. “If you just focus on definitions and theory it can all get a bit mundane. But if you make it practical and improve access to information and resources that improves the students’ knowledge around spending and budgeting money, you equip them with skills for life.”

Why Money Smarts is street smart

The winning team from Gaelcholáiste na Mara in Arklow including Connor Mac Cárthaigh, Micah Young, Rían Ó Dubháin and Jamie Colmách Ó Ceallaigh

The aim of the full Money Smarts programme from Bank of Ireland is to increase financial awareness among secondary school teenagers.

Created with the help of business studies teachers and financial wellbeing experts, presentations, workshops, interactive activities and events deliver valuable messages based on the 6 Pillars of Financial Wellbeing. Students get to explore topics such as spending, saving, earning, credit, debt, fraud and risk in a highly engaging way.   

The Money Smarts Challenge, is the jewel in the crown of the programme. This virtual national secondary school competition is where financial literacy really comes to life.  It ties all the elements of the Money Smarts Programme together, allowing students to take everything they have learned across the other programme elements, and put it to the test in this financially focused quiz.

Money Smarts 2022

School teachers with students and a cheque.

The principal of Gaelcholáiste na Mara Tony Ó Murchú (left) and their business studies teacher Tiarnán De Hál (far right) with the winning team and their prize

In the Money Smarts Grand Final 2022, one school will be crowned Money Smarts Challenge Champions winning the top prize of €15,000 for their school (2022 prize fund). There are also smaller monetary prizes for schools who finish in 2nd and 3rd place.

Ahead of the competition, teachers can access lesson plans, presentations and sample quiz questions based on the topics that make up the 6 Pillars of Financial Wellbeing to help them to prepare for participation.

The principal of Gaelcholáiste na Mara Tony Ó Murchú said the cash windfall for the winning team will be put to good use by the school. “We are going to subsidise an Irish grammar course for fifth and Leaving Cert years as well as sports equipment for the school. There is also a school trip in the pipeline to Strasbourg in February.”

Teacher Tiarnán De Hál said the win has escalated the atmosphere in the whole school.  “It wasn’t just the excitement of winning and the distillation of financial literacy in the classroom, but also how the win has benefited the entire school in general, especially for Irish grammar and sports. We’re using all our business acumen and other financial knowledge to see how we can utilise our win as wisely as possible.”

“The win certainly brings finance, commerce and economics to life and created a fantastic buzz for the students. They all enjoyed the experience of participating in it, even in the midst of Covid-19, it actually acted as a great distraction and even the teams that didn’t make it to the finals they all enjoyed the experience of taking part.”

Student Connor Mac Cárthaigh: “As Tiarnán said, it improved the atmosphere in the school and the experience brought financial literacy to life. Oh, and there were definite bragging rights. It went up on my Instagram right away!

“Fundamentally though, the experience taught us financial skills we will remember. Most notably for me is the importance of creating a rainy day fund. It’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows so having some spare money tucked away is a good rule of thumb for everybody.”

To any school thinking of registering, Principal Tony Ó Murchú enthusiastically encourages schools to “Go for it. You won’t regret it. It’s a fantastic and fun competition that brings financial literacy to life for these young students in the best possible way.” 

The Bank of Ireland Money Smarts Challenge virtual Regional Finals will take place in March 2022 (8th – 10th) with the Grand Final taking place in May 2022! To learn more go to:

The Money Smarts programme is one of many financial wellbeing initiatives delivered by Bank of Ireland. For more information please visit

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.