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 are forking out over £100 in rewards to teens who do well in their exams. But is this the right way to celebrate and incentivise good results, we find out?


Now that revision and exams are over, and kids finally have time to relax, some parents consider rewarding their kids for exam results. According to GoHenry research, nearly half of the kids receive gifts and money for academic achievements. Data from OneFamily, shows the average amount paid out per child for good exam results is £150, and some parents pay per top mark, with each Grade 9 result being worth £100 on average.


Related: How to create an effective reward systemHow much pocket money should we give our kids? 




Why do some parents pay cash for good grades?

One of the main reasons parents choose to incentivise their teens and reward them for grades is to teach kids about the relationship between hard work and money. Currently,  29% of parents believe that promising a reward is a good way to provide a more 'real world' goal for youngsters, while 24% cite it as an opportunity to develop money management skills.


However, for many parents, it's about more than just ensuring their teens get top marks. Nine in 10 say they'd rather see their kids take their studies seriously and work hard. For others, the reward is more of a "well done for getting through this stressful period" and may come in the form of video games (27%), tech – such as a mobile or laptop (26%), holidays (24%) and driving lessons (18%).


"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."


What are the arguments against paying for grades?

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 behaviour for a reward, making 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."




Should I pay cash for grades? 

That said, for some families, rewards feel right. Parents say they can help less motivated students work a little harder and encourage them to push through grade boundaries. Nearly 30% of parents believe that promising a reward is an excellent 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, parents start incentivising their children to do their schoolwork when they move into Year 6 at ten years old.


Rewarding effort, rather than grades, is another line some parents take, but this is 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."


Related: Rewards for teens


How much cash are people giving? 

According to research by financial services provider, OneFamily, some parents pledge £150 per child. And along with one in four (23%) parents who have promised a lump sum of cash in exchange for good grades and 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. And if £150 seems like a lot of cash, it’s worth knowing that many parents choose to reward with pocket money. 


How do I pay for grades?

After weighing up all the pros and cons, if you do decide that rewarding exam success and/ or effort feels like the right thing to do, don't forget that there are a variety of ways to reward a child, such as:

  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

  9. Special privileges

  10.  Theme park


If you decide that a monetary reward or rewards aren't suitable for your child, it's still relatively common for grandparents, aunts and uncles to ask if they can send a little something. 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!


How GoHenry can help

A GoHenry teen debit card can help cement the money lessons you teach your teens by showing them the benefits of pocket money, budgeting, saving and how to spend sensibly. The GoHenry app also features Money Missions, allowing teens to earn points while watching videos and taking interactive quizzes on topics including saving money and spending wisely. The app is designed to be used alongside our prepaid debit card.





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Written by Anita Naik Published Sep 12, 2023 ● 3 min. read