Personal Finance: Students Unravel Mysteries of Taxing, Spending and the Baffling Payslip ; A College Is Testing an Innovative Scheme to Teach the Workings of the Exchequer in Schools, Says WILLIAM KAY

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The phrase "an apple for the teacher" may never have quite the same ring again at Barnet College in north London, because in future the student is likely to add: "And you'll have to pay 17.5 per cent VAT if you eat it here."

Barnet College, which has 24,000 students aged from 14 to more than 70 studying mainly for GCSEs and A-levels, has spent most of this year as a guinea pig for an innovative scheme to teach tax in schools. This week the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIoT) launched it fully as part of the Citizenship course highlighted in last week's Independent.

The raising of taxes and provision of public services is a compulsory element of that course, as part of looking at "how the lives of citizens are affected by the way in which government at national and European levels exercised power, authority and responsibility in relation to economic management".

Lesley Graham, an English and drama teacher at Barnet, says: "We started it for selfish reasons on my part. A lot of students were taking on part- time jobs and they didn't have a clue about tax, so we got together with the CIoT. We needed to have the information about this subject, and to have it as accurate as possible, but presented in an interesting way."

So the CIoT has come up with a pack of teachers' notes and student activity sheets consisting of questions such as "Why are taxes important?" and "Who decides how much we pay?"

The teachers' side of the pack includes a useful background to the annual Budget cycle, with tasks aimed at showing why people pay different rates of tax and how to work out what the different parts of a payslip mean. The pack is available by post for pounds 17.95 from the CIoT at 12 Upper Belgrave Street, London SW1X 8BB, or free if you download it from the special website for this project, www.taxtalking.org.uk.

It was put together by last year's CIoT president, John Whiting of PricewaterhouseCoopers, who says: "We have designed a range of activities, lasting from a single afternoon to a whole term. …