Should we be paying cash and rewarding good grades?

Should we be paying cash and rewarding good grades?

Would you pay your child £150 for an A* grade? Some parents fork out over £100 in rewards to teenagers who do well in their exams this year. But is this the right way to celebrate good results, and do kids need to be rewarded for effort?


With the return of GCSEs, A-Levels and SATs, it's been a stressful summer term for parents and kids. Now that revision and exams are over and kids finally have time to relax, some parents are considering rewarding them for their hard work. According to GoHenry research, nearly half of kids receive gifts and money for academic achievements. Data from, also found over a fifth of parents stated they would give up to £100 per good grade, 2% said they would offer up to £200 and a further 2% said they would hand over up to £300.


Related: How much pocket money should we give our kids? Pocket money app




Why do some parents pay cash for good grades?

Some parents choose to reward children for good grades because they feel it reinforces the link between hard work and money. They believe it helps kids make the connection that working hard has material benefits. Rewarding good grades gives kids a 'real world' goal, and an opportunity to develop money management skills.


For others, the reward is more of a 'well done for getting through this stressful period’, and may come in the form of special meals, festival tickets and tech. For some families, it's related to grade levels: one in four (23%) parents have promised a lump sum of cash in exchange for good grades, and one in twenty (4%) will pay per individual grade.


"Many parents like to reward their kids when they get good exam results,” says Louise Hill, co-founder and COO of GoHenry. "Often, the reward is in recognition of how hard they have seen their child work, or because a high grade has been achieved. However, it can be a divisive issue. Some parents feel that rewards hinder self-motivation and others feel it's a form of bribery. As with all parenting issues, it’s important to do what's right for you and your child."


Should I pay cash for grades? 


Rewards can help less motivated students to work that little bit harder and can encourage students to push through grade boundaries – but there are disadvantages. For starters, it can be unfair as not all students can achieve top grades, and there are also external factors to consider, such as unusually difficult exam papers and bad days due to summer heat, hayfever, tiredness or anxiety.


Rewarding effort can feel fairer, but it's also challenging, especially if your kids revise in different ways or one seems to revise harder than the other, or relies on cramming at the last minute. 


"Rather than rush in with rewards that your child may feel are unwarranted, don't be afraid to talk about how they felt they did,” says Louise. “You may be surprised at how honest they will be about their effort levels and anxieties around the exams. In the long term this could prove more rewarding and helpful than a one-off gift."


How much cash are people giving? 


According to research by financial services provider, OneFamily, some parents are encouraging their teens to do well in school exams by incentivising good results with cash or gifts, pledging £150 per child – the equivalent of £150m across the UK.


Along with the one in four (23%) parents who have promised a lump sum of cash in exchange for good grades and the one in twenty (4%) paying per individual grade, a further one in five (20%) have promised gifts if their child achieves good results. However, for many parents, it’s not just about ensuring their teens get top marks. 90% say they use rewards to help their kids take their studies seriously and work hard.


If £150 seems like a lot of cash, it’s worth knowing that many parents reward with pocket money.  In the US approximately half of the parents provide monetary incentive for good grades. Sometimes referred to as an “academic allowance,” amounts vary by household, but an example would be that students would receive $10 for A’s and $5 for B’s.





When could you start giving cash for good grades? 


One of the main reasons parents choose  to incentivise their teens’ studies is to teach them about the relationship between hard work and money. Nearly 30 per cent believe that promising a reward is a good way to provide a more ‘real world’ goal for youngsters, while 24 per cent cite it as an opportunity to develop money management skills.


In line with this, a quarter of parents (25%) entice their kids to revise or complete homework including giving them pocket money (57%) and on average, and parents start incentivising their children to do their schoolwork when they move into Year 6 at 10 years old.


Are rewards for grades motivating?


So is it wrong to pay for grades? According to experts, the issue isn't whether rewards are good or bad, but that rewards only tend to work in the short term.


Research has found that, in general, rewards given for low-interest tasks increase motivation; with high-interest tasks, when the rewards are offered beforehand and loosely tied to the level of performance, the effect tends to be negative. What’s more, the motivation from rewards sometimes doesn’t last, creating a phenomenon, known as a “reward economy.” This is where kids learn to trade desirable behavior for a reward, which in turn makes them hesitant to “give it away for free.”


Lorraine Candy, writer, podcaster and the author of 'Mum What's Wrong with you: 101 things only the mothers of teenage girls know' agrees and says, "We have never offered money or treats in exchange for good exam results as a family. We feel that this reinforces a message that we only value our child's success, which is not helpful for their development.


“All the experts in adolescent mental health I interviewed when I wrote my book agreed with this approach. Our society today is unhelpfully goal-based; this puts unnecessary pressure on young minds and causes stress which isn't a long-term strategy to build resilience or indeed happiness. Plus failure should always be an option if a child has tried their best, and if they don't want to try, then that is something to chat with them about rather than paying them to do so."


What if I want to reward my child for good grades?


After weighing up all the pros and cons, some families decide that rewarding exam success and/ or effort feels like the right thing to do. After all, it can be a nice way to celebrate the end of a stressful period of hard work. And don’t forget, there are a variety of ways to reward a child, from a special family outing to throwing a party – and even letting them head off to a summer festival with friends.


But even if you decide that a monetary reward isn’t the fight thing for you, it’s fairly common for generous grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles to ask if they can send a little something to celebrate your kids’ efforts. If so, GoHenry’s Giftlinks are designed to give your family and friends an alternative to sending unwanted gifts or vouchers. With one link, they can add a little money to your child's account, which may come in handy if they’re planning all the different ways to celebrate their newfound freedom this summer!


8 ideas for non-monetary rewards


  1. Driving lessons
  2. A meal out
  3. Festival tickets
  4. An experience day
  5. Video games
  6. Holidays
  7. Tech devices
  8. Concert tickets





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Written by Anita Naik Published Jul 29, 2022 ● 3 min. read