Taking cash out of schools
With automated payment methods and debit cards replacing traditional cash payments, it is becoming more common within businesses industries, and now, most recently, schools are switching to cashless. Figures from the Payments Council published on Education Business reveal that cashless payments overtook traditional cash payments in 2014 for the first time.
What are the benefits to schools going cashless?
There are many benefits of switching to cashless systems, one of which affects a school's budget and resources. Offering parents the ability to review their expenses and top-up their child's online account is a great way to boost a school's income and spending per pupil.
Although small payments such as those regularly made by parents for school meals, uniforms and educational trips contribute considerably to the overall school income, they can also create a market deficit when they go unpaid. 'Dinner money debt' is now a serious concern for schools, with one council in Wales recently revealing a debt of over £130,000 aggregated over five years. A cashless system diminishes the potential for unpaid fees.
Furthermore, taking cash out of schools benefits budgets by saving the hefty cost of the physical collection of money to deposit at a bank. Ami's cashless software generates daily, weekly or monthly reports with ease, providing access to information on meals consumed, overdue accounts and food wastage, all of which contribute to lowering costs and reduced administration time.
As for the benefit of a school's resources, cashless catering systems free up a considerable amount of time for the administration staff. Taking cash out of schools can cut down the tiresome task of physically collecting and chasing cash payments from pupils and parents via mail and telephone.
Software such as AMI's Infinity and Transact frees up these essential resources for use in other ways. Administration staff can easily monitor payments, view historical purchases, and make audit trailing a lot more efficient. Using cashless software, schools in the UK have saved on average two and a half days of administration time a month.
How do cashless schools benefit parents and students?
Taking cash out of the school system is not only time saving, but it gives parents the peace of mind that pupils spend money in the way as intended with online payments. Pre-paid school meals mean parents know that children use lunch money for healthy, nutritious meals.
Additionally, parents no longer need to send cash or cheques for circumstances such as school trips or extra-curricular activities. Ninety per cent of parents stated that they preferred to pay online, according to a survey from LACA.
Ami's cashless catering solutions also increase parent convenience and control. They are accessible from any location with an internet connection, optimising parents' increasing access to computers and hand-held devices. Almost one in 10 public school pupils are from overseas, so this level of access is beneficial for those families.
What are the benefits of removing physical cash from schools?
Removing physical cash from schools allows for increased student safety. Adopting a cashless system prevents age-old issues such as bullying, lunch money theft and potential misplacement or loss and eliminates any money safety issues. Students also no longer need to worry about forgetting to take cash to school and missing out on meals, as they are already pre-ordered and paid.
How can going cashless make a school more efficient?
Ami's cashless catering software is flexible and works around each school's requirements. During lunchtimes, for example, cashless software systems provide significant time-saving benefits such as reducing queues. Schools can cut down lengthy waiting times for their students and staff through quick and straightforward identification methods such as PINs, pre-order kiosks and more.
Pre-ordering meals in advance greatly minimise food wastage. Ami's software allows school meal service providers to know exactly how many portions of each meal option to prepare that day, eliminating over-catering and ensuring children receive the meal that they want.
What benefits does a cashless system have on a social level?
Cashless catering software removes any potential discrimination of students by providing ‘Free School Meals’ (FSM) anonymity. A recent LACA survey revealed that 4.9 per cent of pupils entitled to a free meal do not take up their entitlement. The stigma of FSM is still very much apparent in schools, yet with a cashless system, all students have the same method of payment option, regardless of their circumstances.
Cashless systems have also proven to promote healthy eating, encouraging pupils to eat the nutritious meals provided, which is exceedingly essential when tackling the childhood obesity crisis and leading to a better learning environment. Mealtime pre-ordering encourages parent engagement and allows parents to control what their children consume when they are not with them.
Since we first joined LinkedIn a few years ago, we have been utilising the social network to keep our followers up to date with our education solutions, Transact and Infinity+. We have been sharing the latest industry news and gaining an insight into our follower's opinions on specific subjects. LinkedIn has been our go-to tool to introduce the world to our innovative education solutions.
We want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has followed our LinkedIn account, supporting us through liking, sharing and commenting on our content. We can't wait to continue growing our online presence and reach more industry professionals than ever before in the coming years.
Why do professionals use LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a powerful social platform and one of the largest global online networks used to build new industry connections, search for job prospects, learn insights from your favourite businesses and discover new leads via B2B content. LinkedIn's goal is to connect the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful.
The social platform has an estimated audience of over 830 million members in more than 200 countries. LinkedIn has proven worthwhile to thousands of employers and job seekers, with 122 million people receiving an interview through LinkedIn. Unsurprisingly, three people are hired through LinkedIn every minute.
Many educational professionals worldwide use LinkedIn to network and connect with fellow professionals. However, LinkedIn can do more than just networking. Other features like joining groups such as 'Teacher Leadership Network' can help educational professionals to connect, join in with discussions, learn from other educators, share best practices or even discover new technology like Infinity+ Software.
LinkedIn is known to be vital for discovering leads. B2B marketers have reported that 80% of their social media leads come from LinkedIn, and 40% see LinkedIn as the most effective channel for driving high-quality leads. LinkedIn is a brilliant tool for sharing insider knowledge, personal stories, awareness days, polls and resources with other professionals in the industry.
For example, on the ami Education LinkedIn page, we have recently published a free guide on why 'pre-ordering solutions are important for schools'—identifying problems that schools could face, like food waste and how our Infinity+ Order app can solve this.
Whether you want to get involved with industry awareness days, have access to free guides and knowledge or stay up to date with our exciting development, follow our LinkedIn page to get started! Thank you for your continued support.
Over the past two years, the Coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread chaos and disruption across the country, perhaps most notably to children and staff in education.
Since March 2020, UK children have spent months in and out of local and national lockdowns. These disruptions resulted in an unprecedented amount of time missed from the classroom and a nationwide appeal to increase the standards of home food parcels for free school meal kids who missed out on their regular hot and healthy meals usually served from the canteen.
Despite the hardships and challenges that everyone in education catering has faced, it’s been brilliant to see how the industry has bounced back since reopening.
Food Parcels and School Responses
In January of this year, one mother took to Twitter to express her shock over the quality of a food parcel she had received. The image shared 15,000 times on social media sparked a considerable discussion across the UK about the quantity and quality of food distributed to children's homes claiming free school meal provision.
In response to the criticism, some schoolteachers and caterers began stepping in to help struggling children and parents from their own pockets, showing the incredible kindness of those working in education.
One school staff member, Zane Powels, donated 7,500 meals in total alongside laptops to assist vulnerable children whilst they were learning at home. The hero from Western Primary School in Grimsby was given an MBE for his extraordinary efforts, delivering 138 meals a day to children - walking a total of 550 miles during last year’s first lockdown.
Another team of school caterers from Thomas Deacon Education Trust in Peterborough also pulled together to deliver 600 meal parcels over four weeks. Catering Operations Manager for TDET, Michael Dove, said: “It has been an honour to support our local community throughout this pandemic. We understand that food plays an important role in enabling our pupils to achieve their very best. For some children, the meal they would usually have at school would be their only hot meal of the day, and we must continue to provide this for them in the best way we can.”
This collective effort of school caterers led to a nationwide review of the school meal packages, prompting change and helping to protect vulnerable children at a time when they needed it most.
Reopening School Kitchens
When schools returned, the standard lunch service had changed completely. New social distancing measures were in place, and more schools started to implement pre-ordering solutions to allow for a safer and simpler grab-and-go system.
Not only could thousands of vital school caterers return to working at full capacity, but the pause from ordinary operations has allowed the industry to revaluate its approaches towards sustainability and food waste.
A report produced by Footprint Intelligence which focused on conquering challenges in education catering during COVID-19, discovered that 75% of foodservice professionals believed that sustainability had been side-lined because of the pandemic. A further 96% reported that COVID-19 had increased the use of disposables. But there is hope! The same people noted that other solutions are proven to work, including existing crockery and reusable options such as bento boxes and how there was now the momentum to change a broken system.
The report concluded that with the learnings of the pandemic considered, there is no better time than now to begin future-proofing the school lunch service for the benefit of the planet. Whether it be through trailing a plant-based menu, implementing pre-ordering solutions, or pushing for policy changes, the resilience from the education catering industry throughout these challenging times has meant that it now can bounce back better than ever before.
Celebrating the education catering industry
Finally, it’s been a challenging year, so celebrating the work of the industry is paramount. With awards such as The LACA Awards For Excellence and the Public Sector Catering Awards on the calendar, these events will allow us to celebrate the unsung heroes of the pandemic and push the industry to even greater heights as it bounces back to its former glory.
We can’t wait to see what happens next.