Children tackle tax in class | ActionAid UK

Tax can be complicated, but it’s important for every citizen to understand what it’s used for and how it works. This is why ActionAid UK and our partners SAPERE have developed Philosophy for Children (P4C) resources that encourage children to discuss tax and the issues which surround it. 

The children of Elm Class at St Nicholas’ School in Oxford invited us along to hear what they had to say on the subject.

St.Nicholas’ School pupils discussed many issues around tax, including: ‘Should we use tax loopholes for our own benefit?’
St.Nicholas’ School pupils discussed many issues around tax, including: ‘Should we use tax loopholes for our own benefit?’

Tax, fairness and 'Philosophy for Children'

Even though it was non-uniform day, the children were no less focused on the job at hand. Having already participated in two P4C lessons about tax, their group discussions quickly concentrated on the difference between legal and illegal tax avoidance. 

“We all want to make the world a better place,” said one child, “but the companies who don’t pay tax aren’t helping.” 

Another child added: “Something being legal isn’t the same as it being fair.”

The lesson began with children ranking certain statements from 'fair' to 'unfair'

When people talk about tax, they’re often talking about fairness, equality and the communities within which they build their lives. The children of St Nicholas’ School were no different. 

“Tax pays for things like hospitals, schools and the police. These are essential services,” said Jed, pictured below.  

Odile (left) and Jed (right), both 11, enjoy their regular Philosophy for Children (P4C) lessons

Learning about grown-up subjects

After their classmates had gone for break, pupils Odile and Jed stayed behind to share their thoughts about exploring a topic many people consider too complex for children.

“Children learning about grown-up subjects helps them become better grown-ups,” Jed said. 

Odile added: “If you know more about something, you can judge it better for yourself and make the right decisions.”

The impact of tax dodging on women and girls

Women and girls tend to be impacted the most when public services are underfunded. For example when schooling is not free, families often prioritise sending boys over girls.

In Zambia, Irene attends school but is often forced to study standing up due to a shortage of desks and chairs:

“We feel bad reading whilst standing,” she says, “we need more desks.”

Irene (centre) is forced to stand during lessons due to a lack of chairs at her school in Zambia

The teaching resources used at St. Nicholas’ School help pupils to make the link between tax and the funding of public services by including real life stories such as Irene's.

Teacher Rosie Thomson summed up why it’s important for children in the UK to learn about these issues:

"These lessons help children to realise that there is unfairness in the world, but also that they have the means and the education to try to stop it.”

Download 'Tax, fairness and Philosophy for Children'

Find out more about ActionAid's tax justice work