Latest education news for schools across the globe
During the Coronavirus pandemic, innovative technology such as pre-order apps and cashless catering products have come into a league of their own. From improving the flow of traffic within the school dining hall to helping schools to maintain social distancing guidelines by enabling students to use their mobile devices to select their food options anytime, anywhere, pre-order apps such as ami Education’s Infinity+ Order have really proved their worth in the past year.
However, with so many more untold benefits, it’s clear to say that the peak of school meal pre-ordering is far from over.
Why do we need pre-ordering after lockdown?
Outside of the context of COVID-19, pre-ordering technology still holds value. According to a recent Footprint Intelligence Report, 41% of foodservice professionals said that pre-ordering systems have reduced food wastage and increased lunchtime efficiencies in schools where they are implemented.
Maintaining a streamlined lunchtime service is also vital for reducing the stress of school caterers who have worked tirelessly to provide students with meals during the pandemic, and when students select their meals ahead of time, it enables catering teams to produce the exact amount of food required. This eradicates the need for over-catering and cuts down on food wastage, which is better for school budgets, catering staff, and the planet.
Cutting down on food wastage isn’t the only way pre-ordering is helping schools to reach their sustainability targets. The Infinity+ Order app provides full records of past orders, and the online payment integration means that receipts no longer need to be printed out at POS, saving paper and needless spending on printing.
Moreover, the powerful reporting suite helps predict trends that can help with accurate stock control to save schools money and food from ending up in the cafeteria bin.
It’s not just the environmental factors attracting schools towards the pre-ordering revolution. Cashless catering apps such as Infinity+ Order are widely accessible on mainstream download platforms such as the App Store or Google Play, meaning that any student with a smartphone can gain access to the ease of pre-ordering in just a few clicks.
This ability to order snacks and meals from a personal device also gives students claiming free school meals added anonymity throughout the ordering and collection process, ensuring that FSM students are comfortable in the dining hall.
As schools adapt to the new normal, their primary goal will be to help students who may have fallen behind catch up to where they need to be. Pre-order apps can help with this task by reducing the amount of time spent queuing, meaning that pupils can get back to lunchtime catchup clubs as soon as possible.
Ordering meals in advance also removes hunger-based decisions, which often consist of unhealthy snacks and drinks - encouraging pupils to pick a fully nutritious meal that can power them through the day and improve their concentration in class.
What’s not to love? Find out more about implementing pre-ordering into your education environment here to access a world of benefits: https://www.amieducation.com/pre-order-app
Today, it’s the return of International School Meals Day for its ninth year running. The awareness day aims to highlight the options for affordable and nutritious meals for schools, whilst exploring the links between good food and the mental and physical health of children.
The theme for 2021 is ‘Eat for the Health of it,’ which gives children, businesses, and communities the opportunity to come together and share their thoughts, knowledge, and opinions regarding school meals. We’re looking at the importance of nutritious school meals and the effects on a pupil’s ability to learn.
Why are healthy school meals so important?
Not only are schools required by law to serve nutritious school lunches containing high-quality meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, and bread, but they also provide the fuel for a more productive day of learning for students.
Eating a nutritious plate of food at lunchtime is proven to boost the attention span and alertness of pupils in the classroom in comparison to those who consume poor meals in the canteen. According to a study published by The Atlantic in 2018, it was discovered that schools that held a contract with healthier school catering services also performed better in state examinations, further boosting the reasoning for school meals to be at the forefront of industry conversation.
But school meals are not only important for boosting concentration. They are also the main source of nutrition for students during a key period of their development, providing the vital calories they need to maintain their physical wellbeing. Recent conversations - particularly those around food insecurity which is on the rise and had been experienced by 2.3million children between March and August in 2020 alone (End Child Food Poverty) are now more noteworthy than ever and have further elevated the importance of getting a nutritious, hot school meal out to children who otherwise may not receive the food that they need.
Students claiming free school meals are especially vulnerable in this area, so assuring they have access to at least one good meal at school is pivotal to not only their health but to the quality of their education as well.
How can I get involved in International School Meals Day 2021?
There are many ways to get involved in the event, but there is also the freedom to take part in any way that best suits you, your organisation or classroom! Here are some suggestions:
- Have an International Menu Day, featuring food from around the world
- Run food tasting sessions or hold other fun food-related activities
- Host cooking activities with an international theme
- Hold fundraising activities for charities to support school feeding programmes in developing countries
- Incorporate global citizenship, food culture and healthy eating into classroom learning
- Run seminars, workshops or events related to food traditions, ceremonies, or celebrations
- Research and publish information relating to school foods and the benefits of healthy eating
The most important thing, however, is not to just take a single day to promote the importance of school meals but to continually highlight the impact they have on the lives of young people all year round and implement changes to ensure they continue to make healthy food choices at mealtimes. Pre-ordering software such as AMI’s Infinity+ Order App are leading the way in encouraging children to eat healthily by removing hunger-based, spontaneous selections in the lunch queue, among other benefits which you can read about in our blog.
Whichever way you decide to celebrate #InternationalSchoolMealsDay, we hope you have a great time! For more information, please visit the official ISMD website: http://internationalschoolmealsday.com/.
Reducing food wastage and increasing school uptake
Over the last three decades, the UK has seen some of the steepest education cuts, making it increasingly difficult for schools to balance their books, and one of the biggest potentials for loss is mealtime and food ordering.
The introduction of the School Food Plan and universal free school meals means school kitchens are under pressure to provide healthy, nutritious meals within the government set allowance. Therefore, with over-catering having the potential to be the source of profit loss, avoiding producing excess food must be a key consideration for schools.
What are the effects of over-catering in schools?
The biggest issue of over-catering in schools is without doubt wastage, both food and money wastage. Menu choices can have a large impact on the efficiency of the school’s catering budget. For example, if the school has too many options on the menu and is over-ordering food, many items may have low take-up. The school is, therefore, likely spending money on food that is ending up in the bin. Streamlining the menu by adopting pre-ordering systems, like ami’s Infinity+ cashless software, including the Infinity+ Order pre-order app, can help reduce food waste and save the school money on the cost of supplies.
As pointed out by Birmingham.Gov, catering staff in schools generally have information on the total number of pupils they are cooking for, but, in most school’s they have no information about the specific numbers for each meal option. Although they are skilled at estimating how many children will choose each meal, they have no real way of knowing the exact numbers, and this lack of information can result in food wastage.
Automating food orders within schools
With a system that allows pre-ordered school meals, children and parents can choose their preferred meal option each day, allowing catering staff to have an exact idea of the meals needing to be catered for, eliminating the element of waste.
As mentioned by Key Support, without software such as ami’s pre-ordering options, waste is one of the biggest things driving high school catering costs. Unlike when cooking at home, schools can’t refrigerate and reheat food once cooked. Instead, schools end up throwing away any uneaten cooked food.
Marcus Orlovsky, a Tedx host on education and real estate, believes that one way to address this problem is by taking a restaurant-inspired approach to catering. This approach means that food is only taken out of the refrigerator when needed, reducing the likelihood that excess cooked food will be thrown away and allowing schools to put those ingredients to use another day.
With the money and resources saved from using a pre-ordered school meal system, the school can invest in better, healthy, locally sourced food and ingredients, meaning better and more nutritious school meals for students and staff.
Furthermore, with ami’s cashless software, Free School Meal (FSM) stigma is no longer an issue in schools, as anonymity is maintained through a standardised cashless catering system to pre-order and collect food, allowing FSM pupils to enjoy the same lunchtime experience as their peers. Only the head and the school bursar will know which pupils qualify for free school meals, meaning no roll-call, colour-coding or separate queues.
In an age where food wastage and sustainability in education is more important than ever, schools must be aware of their impact on the environment and look to ways to minimise wastage and consequently increase uptake. With existing pre-ordering software that eliminates unnecessary waste, such as ami’s Infinity product, now is the time for schools to adapt to the
technology. Get in touch to learn more.
With the newly renewed prevalence of the food wastage issue, it is becoming more apparent than ever that the education sector needs to do its part to reduce the impact of their catering systems on the planet around us and to promote sustainability in schools.
In a report published by Wrap.Org, it was discovered that food wastage was created across both primary and secondary as a result of a multitude of issues including:
- The absence of ordering systems leading to kitchens over-catering for an unknown number of students
- Students at the end of the queue not being able to receive their food of choice, causing them to be served a meal they did not like and later wasting it
- Pupils not knowing what meal options were available to them
- Lack of flexibility and control over food combinations or menus
However, with the help of pre-ordering technology - which has seen an increase in demand in recent years - schools can crack down on food wastage and make massive savings on their budgets with a tailored and streamlined pre-order system for pupils.
Sustainability is now a vital factor in the fight for the future of our planet and with food wastage accounting for almost a quarter of all man-made greenhouse gases, reducing the number of meals that end up in landfill is of vital importance. In fact, in an article published by Greener Kirkcaldy, it was said that “if food wastage was a country, it would be ranked third after the US and China in terms of greenhouse gas production.” With a pre-order app, school catering teams can know ahead of time which quantity of each meal option to produce before anyone ever steps foot into a queue - creating an immediate reduction in overall food wastage in schools.
We recently discussed on our blog how the wastage of meals is costing schools over £250 million each year, meaning there is more reason than ever to implement pre-ordering into your education environment.
How does pre-ordering reduce the wastage of food?
Pupils can order exactly what they want ahead of lunchtime meaning a faster queuing system as the food is already prepared, over-catering is eliminated and there is reduced contact with other students, which has taken on renewed importance amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-order apps are also highly customisable meaning that every aspect of a meal can be altered or removed to suit the student’s personal preferences. This takes away unwanted ingredients that would otherwise be wasted, not to mention the benefits of data trend predictions that can prevent the ordering of unnecessary stock and advanced preparation.
Does pre-ordering sound like something that could benefit your school? Introduce pre-order technology as a seamless addition to your cashless catering system.
Learn more > https://www.amieducation.com/products-and-solutions
As 2020 draws to a close, the ami team is taking a moment to reflect on the past twelve months and look back on some of the great things we've achieved this year, which we couldn't have done without your help.
This year, we've focused on providing useful advice for our customers on safely reopening schools and have been creating exciting new developments to help schools around the world provide pupils with a safe, socially distanced lunchtime. We can't wait to share more information with you in the new year.
New product in development
Over the past year, the AMI team has been working on an exciting new development for secondary schools around the world, offering pupils a contactless lunch experience. Stay tuned for the announcement very soon. Be the first to know >
To help you brush up on your knowledge of cashless catering, we ran FREE one-to-one meetings, training and demonstrations with our Operations Manager, Tony Reeves.
We've published 11 blogs
We launched our education blog back in April this year. Throughout 2020, we've been sharing content on a variety of topics, from why pre-ordering software is crucial for schools to how schools can prioritise nutrition after lockdown.
Evolis Gold Reseller
We aim to provide our customers with the highest level of service, which is why we're proud to have been recognised as an Evolis Gold Reseller, ensuring we offer the utmost level of support and service to the Evolis community. Learn more >
Customer service has been our priority
Providing excellent customer service is at the heart of what we do at ami, which is why in 2020, total time spent on the phone to our customers amounted to 13 days, whilst we ensured that customers waited no longer than 3 minutes to speak to our support team.
As 2020 comes to an end, from the team at ami, we wish you a safe and happy Christmas and look forward to seeing what 2021 brings.
A focus on customer satisfaction
At ami Education, customer satisfaction is at the heart of everything we do. That’s why we invest heavily in our product offering, training options and customer support to make sure that our users are getting the maximum benefits from their cashless system.
Evolis Accredited Gold Partner
As with any software licence, the combination of hardware should enhance and complement your usability. Ami Education is proud to partner with Evolis, extending our gold level partner status under the Evolis Red Program. Our continued partnership means our clients can purchase the best printer products which seamlessly integrate with our cashless systems, fully integrated solutions, and service with confidence.
What is an Evolis Accredited partner?
Together, we offer schools a complete end-to-end solution. As a GOLD level partner, there are a number of benefits to our customers which include:
- Guarantee product delivery in a timely manner
- Provide you with best-in-class commercial service, including product demonstrations with printers and software
- Offer 1st level technical support through our service helpdesk
Tony Reeves, Head of Operations at ami Education had this to say:
“We are delighted to have renewed our partnership with Evolis for 2020 as a Gold level reseller under the RED PARTNER accreditation. Our continued partnership is an example of our dedication to offering our customers the highest level of sales service and support.”
Over the past few weeks, education news outlets have been dominated by stories of how schools have managed to safely reopen to all pupils, and how the majority of these pupils have been desperately eager to return to school, excited at the prospect of returning to a normal learning routine.
Whilst classroom learning is a key aspect of this routine, it’s important to take into consideration the effect of a positive lunchtime experience on a student’s ability to learn. As today marks the start of the British Nutrition Foundation's Healthy Eating Week, we’re looking at why nutrition must be a key priority for schools as the start of a new style of learning begins.
Importance of school meals during lockdown
When schools closed in March, this brought a period of unrest and disruption to the routine of many, especially to younger children who were still getting used to the normal school routine and the benefits that it brought.
Whilst many have adapted, the issue of providing pupils, especially those eligible for free school meals and whose parents/guardians were made redundant, with a regular supply of nutritious meals was crucial for education professionals and highlighted the amazing work being done within the sector.
One example of this was the tireless effort put in by headteacher Zane Powles to hand-deliver 7,500 free school meals to his students in Grimsby. Another prominent case of the fight to provide children with free school meals was by footballer Marcus Rashford, who successfully called for the government to reverse a decision not to provide free school meal vouchers during the summer.
The admirable effort by those to help struggling families during lockdown only goes to show the importance of school meals, and how schools can provide a vital service in keeping pupils well-fed with delicious and nutritious meals.
The crisis of child food poverty is only growing, with up to 1.5 million more children in England eligible for free school meals, according to the National Food Strategy. Therefore, the need to provide pupils with nutritious food during lunchtime is only heightened when many pupils rely on this meal as their main meal of the day, especially after months during which some pupils may have experienced very limited access to healthy food.
Whilst many factors affect a child’s ability to learn, providing them with a healthy lunch after months of uncertainty will be crucial in the effort to make up for time lost in the classroom.
Government regulations state that food served in schools and academies in England must meet standards that require the provision of good-quality meat, poultry or oily fish, fruit and vegetables, bread and other cereals and potatoes.
Drinks with added sugar, as well as crisps, chocolate or sweets are banned in school meals and vending machines, as well as a limit of no more than 2 portions of deep-fried, battered, or breaded food a week. These regulations ensure that all the vital food groups are covered, providing pupils with healthy food that will keep their energy levels up and equip them with the tools to learn.
The new school lunchtime experience
Since schools reopened, the lunchtime experience differs by each school, with some schools operating on a ‘packed lunch’ only basis, whether that’s provided by the school or parents, other schools opting for pupils to each their lunch in the classroom, and other schools offering pre-order services from the canteen, ensuring pupils can still safely access hot school meals.
Pre-order software, including AMI’s Transact offering, allows pupils to pre-order their lunches ahead of time, reducing the need for queueing in the dining hall and therefore ensuring social distancing measures are abided by, which is becoming increasingly popular amongst schools across the UK and is looking to be a vital drive in keeping children well-fed at lunchtime during the new age of social distancing rules in schools.
Value of hot school meals
Vital government regulations over the content of school meals mean that every pupil eating a hot school meal, including those eligible for free school meals, has access to at least one nutritionally adequate meal during the day. Packed lunches, on the other hand, aren’t required to abide by these regulations, with research finding that only 2% of packed lunches meet school food standards (Evans et al, 2020).
Some may argue that packed lunches can be as nutritionally balanced as school meals, and whilst this is true in some cases, due to the lack of regulations over the content of lunchboxes, focusing on hot school meals is the easiest and most effective way of ensuring all the necessary dietary requirements are met for all children, as well as being a safer option for pupils suffering from food allergies.
"Serving a hot nutritious daily meal to pupils would mean that parents, schools, and their caterers would have more faith knowing that children are getting the food that they need. For many vulnerable children, their hot school meal is the only meal they have in the day. A simpler (and healthier) food offer would go a long way to ensure pupils are eating food which meets the mandated school meal standards rather than being lured away by the daily temptation of their favourite food. " Jeanette Orrey, co-founder of Food for Life.
Therefore, as we mark the beginning of Healthy Eating Week, ensuring hot school meals are on the menu during school lunchtimes will be a key driver in the fight for ensuring each child, regardless of their circumstances, are provided with consistent, good quality food as they settle back into their new school routine. And judging by the increase in schools switching to cashless payments and a ‘grab and go’ style of lunch service, pre-ordering software will be the future of the Covid-19 friendly school lunchtime experience.
To learn more about how you can get involved in BNF Healthy Eating Week, visit: https://bit.ly/366CYBh
When it comes to school lunches, options differ drastically by each country, from four-course meals consisting of roast beef, tabbouleh and apple tart in France to spaghetti with seafood sauce and fish fillet au gratin in Italy, each country offers its own unique meal choices for school pupils.
Children across the globe are offered a variety of foods to tuck into at lunchtime, and we’re looking at what school lunches around the world look like and how these differ in terms of nutrition and variety.
Starting with the home country of AMI’s headquarters, UK’s school canteens have seen drastic changes to the food provided over the years, with a dramatic shift toward more nutritional food in recent years, thanks to Jamie Oliver’s Feed Me Better campaign in the noughties. Oliver’s campaign increased the standards of school meals and reduced saturated fat, sugar and salt present in the food served to children.
Today, lunch options in the UK are far more varied, with an increased number of options for different dietary preferences, and Research by the Children’s Food Trust shows that school meals in the UK are now consistently more nutritious than packed lunches, providing children with a better foundation for good health.
Typical hot school lunches include vegetarian lasagne, pasta bake, fresh salads, jam roly-poly and more; fresh, healthy options with some old classics added in.
Known for its culinary delights, France offers its pupils slightly more decadent options, including brie, steak, and apple tart to name a few, whilst adhering to strict nutritional regulations concerning portion sizes, nutritional composition, and cooking methods.
For example, starters containing more than 15% fat can be served no more than 4 out of 20 days, which means that salads, grilled chicken with grains and even roast guinea fowl make regular appearances on French school menus.
As a nation with a healthier, and perhaps more inclusive attitude toward food, it is no surprise that Italians focus on setting up children for healthy eating habits in adult life, and school lunches are the perfect way to promote healthy eating practices. Guidelines state that Italian school lunches must include a starchy dish such as rice or pasta, a main course such as meat, fish, cheese, two or more vegetable side dishes, and plenty of fruit.
Besides, Italian law is much stricter regarding unhealthy food on school menus and forbids cafeterias from serving deep-fried food such as chips and fried chicken. Therefore, popular lunch items include minestrone, mushroom risotto, and the occasional scoop of gelato.
Unlike the other countries in this list, lunch is considered the main meal of the day in Greece, which means pupils often eat lunch at home or bring a packed lunch into school and therefore, many schools don’t offer subsidized school lunches. However, schools that do serve lunch offer options such as baked chicken with orzo, cucumber and tomato salad, stuffed vine leaves and yoghurt with fruit for dessert.
Research shows that receiving free or reduced-price school lunches reduce food insecurity, obesity rates, and poor health, and what sets Sweden apart from the other countries is the fact that since 1997, all children in the country have access to a free hot school lunch, which consists of a hot meal, salad buffet, bread and a drink, with vegetarians options available to all.
Desserts and soft drinks, however, are not served, and options such as pizza and deep-fried food have been removed in recent years, with a focus on healthy and sustainable meal options such as meat or vegetable stew with potatoes, pasta with sauce, and knäckebröd, Sweden’s famous crispy bread.
(The Japan Guy)
In Japan, school lunches are offered to nursery and middle school children and are served in the classroom, with an emphasis on nutrition education and teaching pupils how to cook healthy food from scratch and making students aware of the nutritional components of the food they’re eating.
Unsurprisingly, Japan has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world, which is likely a result of offering pupils food such as miso soup with pork, rice with grilled fish, milk, and dried fruit for dessert.
South Korea is another country known for its healthy school lunch offerings and emphasis on health education. Since pupils are encouraged to partake in various extracurricular activities after school, pupils need to be served healthy lunch options that will sustain them into the evening. Popular dishes include fried rice with tofu, kimchi, fish soup and mixed green vegetables.
Last but certainly not least, America is a country famous for its plethora of junk food offerings and fast food outlets on every corner. In US schools, the National School Lunch Programme provides low-cost or free school lunches to 31 million students at more than 100,000 schools per day, and meals must meet the nutritional standards based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
However, tight budgets and unhealthy school vendors have meant that lunches served in some US schools (but not all) are highly processed and lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables. These lunches often look like popcorn chicken with French fries, mashed potatoes, and for dessert, fruit cups and chocolate chip cookies.
Resources for schools:
Pre-Ordering School Meals
What are the benefits of Pre-Ordered school meals?
It has been reported that food wastage is currently costing schools over £250 million each year. Pre-ordering school meals dramatically reduces food wastage and associated costs. The intervention of software aims to reduce food wastage by providing school meal service providers with exact numbers of meal portions that need to be prepared that day, eliminating the need for over-catering and ensuring children receive the meal that they want.
Although school caterers generally have information on the total number of pupils they are cooking for, in most schools, they have no information about the specific numbers for each meal option. Although they are skilled at estimating how many children will choose each meal, they have no real way of knowing the exact numbers and this lack of information can then result in food being wasted.
What are the benefits to students and parents of Pre-Ordered school meals?
With a system that allows pre-ordered school meals, children and parents can choose their preferred meal option meaning not only reduced wastage but better food education, encouragement of healthy food options and increased parental engagement.
According to BUPA, the UK has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe, with around 1 in 10 children aged 4 to 5 classified as obese, and around 1 in 5 children aged 10 to 11. Pre-ordering meal software allows pupils to be actively involved in planning their meal choice and to take ownership of their diets.
To encourage students to select healthier foods, recent research has focused on how environmental changes and behavioural economics can guide children to make healthier choices. This includes the pre-ordering of lunch. Pre-ordering school meals could pre-empt hunger-based, spontaneous selections, and eliminate the sensory cues—evocative smells and sights—that lead to less healthy choices.
For a student, getting their choice of meal, feeling comfortable with the process, not being rushed, and not having to wait in long queues are seen as key elements for schools adopting a pre-ordered approach to school meals.
There is also the benefit for children with food allergies and intolerances, as a pre-ordered meal can be chosen in line with the necessary specifications
Pre-ordering school meals also benefit students by reducing queueing at mealtimes. The lunchtime rush becomes a much smoother experience when meals are already ordered and paid for, as children simply have to collect their chosen meal from the cafeteria. Reducing meal queuing times for students further means a reduced percentage of pupils favouring out-of-the-gate spending and in turn, this lowers the likelihood of excessive junk food being consumed leading to childhood obesity.
Pre-ordering is essentially pre-empting, and in today's society using technology to plan ahead is the most efficient way to control an entity such as a school. Technology enables schools to pre-plan, taking the opportunity for human error and unnecessary time spent away, and allowing better use of school resources.
Changing the lunchtime experience post-lockdown
One thing that is seemingly unavoidable in day to day life is queuing. Be it at the supermarket, post office or dry cleaners; waiting lines happen everywhere, anywhere and to anyone. Yet one place in which queues are in surplus and yet hugely unacknowledged or addressed is in schools. Despite sometimes being as disastrous as in retail, queuing in schools is rarely discussed.
The first contact with queuing in schools happens as students are trying to enrol and stretch over their time in education to queuing for mealtimes, school trips, registration and more. The biggest offender by far is the day to day slog of mealtime queuing in schools. Long waiting times matched with only a short period in which to eat makes lunchtime queuing something that needs to be addressed and improved for the benefit of staff and pupils.
The age-old custom of waiting in line wastes the average person up to two years of their life, according to a study by Casumo, and although saying goes ‘time is money’, time is also time, something which students can’t afford to waste. A student’s priority is to study and with a solid queue management system in place that follows strict social distancing rules, the time saved by a pupil can be used for more important school matters.
What are the results of bad queue management in schools?
A secondary school in London found this out the hard way, as its pupils were shunning food in a school canteen and instead were favouring the option to leave school grounds and purchase their lunches rather than queue for the school meals provided. This kind of ‘out-of-gate' spending can mean students are consuming unhealthy foods for lunch, of which the school cannot have full control over. Unhealthy lunches are one of the main contributors to childhood obesity and poor nutrition in children.
Lengthy waiting times for lunch isn’t an issue confined to smaller state schools either and arguably, somewhat worse than the out-of-gate junk food purchasing seen in London - In Neath, South Wales, pupils of a £40m Baglan Bay High School have waited throughout the entire lunch break and had to go back to class on an empty stomach.
What are the solutions for better queue management in schools?
The introduction of cashless catering software such as AMI’s Transact meal ordering and registration for primary schools is revolutionary in cutting waiting times during school lunchtime by allowing pupils to pre-order their lunch choices via an interactive whiteboard or the teacher’s PC, allowing younger pupils to select their food in a fun and interactive way.
Once the order has been placed, the pupil’s lunch choice is sent to the kitchen to be prepared ready for when they arrive at the dining hall, reducing the need to queue whilst pupils make their lunch choices.
Other solutions to reduce school queues include AMI’s ID management system and contactless cards, reducing contact at lunch whilst ensuring new social distancing measures are strictly adhered to. This software offers an option of real-time database sync from MIS system meaning there is no chance of mistakenly missed students and all applications are managed through one main database.
Software such as AMI’s Identity Management means students waiting for their lunch are identified through their contactless cards to make payments, gain access to areas, reset passwords and much more �" saving huge amounts of time and resources during the mealtime rush. Queue management software is leading the way to more efficient waiting times, organisation, and simplified identity management.
By using a cashless catering system and ID management software, schools can not only generate reports to show what food has been ordered but they can also keep track of food wastage at the click of a button. This gives schools control over the content of their pupil's meals, benefits their budgets (by avoiding unnecessary spending) and allows them to be environmentally sensitive by not contributing to food wastage.
While the queuing controversy in schools can be partially solved by a more efficient waiting area layout, which will begin to improve as more schools place ordering and collection points around the school, the core problem lies in queue management itself. The solution, therefore, is to invest in a queue management system for schools.
It is not enough to just say that schools need queue management to ensure their students eat correctly and on time; but in a time where social distancing and minimal contact is key, cashless software is crucial to protect pupils and reduce the risk of germs spreading as lockdown measures ease and pupils return to school.
Visit here to learn more about AMI’s full range of cashless catering and Identity Management solutions.
Schools: A global view
As schools begin to re-open across the globe, we take a look at the varied measures countries are taking to ensure the safeguarding of their staff and pupils.
- In Denmark, primary schools opened their doors in the middle of April, with secondary schools following one month later. The classroom looks remarkably different as desks are stationed six feet apart, and parents are no longer allowed inside school buildings. To ensure pupils adhere to social distancing guidelines, classes are held outside where possible, and communal areas such as playgrounds and school libraries are currently closed. Schools have also installed handwashing stations outside of the buildings and students are encouraged to wash their hands every hour.
- Germany has also begun to reopen schools, prioritising younger pupils and those pupils due to sit exams.
Classrooms have been set up so that desks are two meters apart and display all of the necessary signs and posters that encourage social distancing and hand washing. School leaders state that face masks will be encouraged but is not mandatory.
- Similarly to Germany, pupils in Austria returned to school earlier this month. However, to ensure safe social distancing, schools in Austria are splitting their class sizes in half. This means that pupils will now be attending school 2.5 days a week, to alternate the classroom space.
- In France, the education ministry has issued detailed instructions to schools on how to keep their premises clean and their pupils safe. The document states that; children over the age of 11 need to wear masks, a class cannot exceed 15 children, there are to be no shared toys, and schools are to implement timed arrivals.
However, even with these safety requirements in place, parents are reluctant to send their children back to school. Jean-Michel Blanquer, French Education Minister said:
- Schools have re-opened in Asia, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and parts of Japan. In Japan, Taiwan, and China, staff members are taking students' temperatures before they enter school buildings. Whereas in Beijing, pupils are required to fill out a survey on an app that calculates a person's risk of infection. Some students were also given personal thermometers and are required to take their temperature twice a day while at school.
- In Israel, schools are beginning to open for elementary school pupils. However, like France, significant numbers of parents initially chose to keep their children at home. Second and third graders in Israel wear protective masks while in school, but not in the classroom.
- For New Zealand, the Ministry of Education has said that schools “can start a transition period from Thursday 14 May”, which allows them to bring different year groups back gradually and gives them the option of providing a “transition arrangement” for those children “whose parents are anxious about their return to school”.
- Schools in Sweden have remained open throughout. They have relied on social distancing and hygiene measures to reduce the spread of infection. School leaders in Sweden have followed similar advice to schools around the world, such as:
- Keeping sick staff and students at home
- Raising awareness of hand hygiene
- Extra cleaning
- Social distancing
- Heading outside, where possible
- Continually preparing for changes
- As the United Kingdom prepares to re-open schools over the next few months, with some schools in England preparing to return as early as June, we take a look at some of the guidance education professionals will be following:
1. Reducing the size of classes and keeping children in small groups
Class sizes are also expected to be limited to 15 pupils, which will be particularly difficult for large secondary schools across the UK. To facilitate this, schools are being asked to utilise other spaces that they have available, and in some cases, teachers may be asked to move classrooms, instead of pupils, to help control traffic in communal school areas.
2. Staggered break and lunchtimes, as well as drop-offs and pick-ups
Staggering break times will give schools more control over high-traffic areas, and ensure that social distancing guidelines are adhered to.
3. Increasing the frequency of cleaning
As well as maintaining a high level of cleanliness in the school building with thorough and frequent sanitisation of any shared objects, education professionals will also be tasked with encouraging pupils to increase the number of times a day that they wash their hands.
Were here to help the return to school process as easy as possible. Get in touch.
Reducing food wastage in schools
We’re all encouraged to adopt eco-friendly habits such as recycling, switching off lights when they’re not in use and taking shorter showers, but reducing food wastage could be one of the key actions we can take to minimise our impact to the environment.
On Stop Food Waste Day 2020, we’re looking at how schools and pupils can reduce food wastage to help protect the environment and save time and money.
Many adults are aware of the smaller measures they can take to help protect the environment, and whilst these efforts should be encouraged, schools need to instil these habits from an early age and make pupils aware of the impact they can make, especially when it comes to wasting food.
Whilst most schools teach pupils about ways in which we can help save the environment, schools and caterers can put these lessons into practice every lunchtime by taking the appropriate measures to ensure that food wastage is kept to a minimum.
Reduce food wastage with cashless catering software
Switching to cashless catering such as pre-ordering software is one of the most effective ways that schools can minimise their environmental impact and reduce food wastage on a larger scale.
AMI’s range of pre-ordering software, including Transact, allows pupils of all ages to pre-order their school lunches, sending orders to the kitchen ahead of time to allow catering staff to prepare meals in advance. By informing staff of meal choices in advance, schools can avoid producing too much food and can focus on only preparing what is necessary.
On a primary school level, Transact provides a fun and interactive solution for pupils to pre-order their meal selection during the morning registration process. Pupils can make their selection at a teacher’s PC or interactive whiteboard, sending orders to the kitchen in advance.
By giving younger pupils the option to choose their food in a fun and interactive way, pupils are encouraged to take interest and become excited about their food choices, making them more likely to eat all of their lunch and reducing the risk of food being left on the plate.
Pre-ordering school meals also helps reduce food waste by minimising queuing times, allowing pupils to choose their favourite lunch options in advance, ensuring they have access to the food they enjoy, whilst reducing queuing times and giving students adequate time to enjoy their lunch. By improving the dining experience and making lunchtime enjoyable for all pupils, food wastage can be reduced and save schools time and money.
Where food is being wasted in schools
Waste management experts WRAP found that in both primary and secondary schools, the kitchen and canteen areas produced the majority of the total food waste, representing food that is prepared in the kitchen and served, but not eaten in the canteen.
In primary schools, the total produced in these two areas was 72%, with an equal split between the kitchen (36%) and canteen (36%). This can be reduced with the implementation of cashless catering software, benefitting staff and pupils.
The organisers of Stop Food Waste Day are encouraging everyone to take the pledge to reduce their food wastage and urge others to do the same. They have found that 33% of all food produced globally is lost or wasted every year, whilst 25% of global food waste could feed 795 million undernourished people in the world.
How schools can help
Here are some other ways that schools can encourage pupils to reduce their food wastage:
- Serve correct portion sizes- younger children don’t need big portions, therefore if they are given larger quantities of food, they are likely to become too full and leave the majority on their plate, which can be avoided by serving portions appropriate to the child’s age. For older pupils, encourage them to eat smaller portions, and only go back for seconds if they’re still hungry.
- Encourage pupils to discover the flavours they like- years ago, children were often encouraged to eat whatever was given to them, even if they didn’t like that food. If children discover flavours they enjoy and learn their favourite types of food, they are less likely to waste unwanted food and are more likely to clear their plates at lunchtime.
- Encourage school dinners over packed lunches- a recent study by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex has found that the provision of free school meals in schools is a useful weapon in the fight against childhood obesity, with school meals providing more nutrition than packed lunches. If pupils are given a range of choices for their lunch, they’re more likely to choose the food they enjoy, whilst schools can monitor the nutritional value of the options provided.
- Promote a calm eating environment- many pupils are likely to get excited about lunchtime, however, if the dining hall is noisy, this can cause an unpleasant eating environment for some pupils, prompting them to avoid spending time in the dining hall, leaving behind the food on their plates.
- Make pupils aware of the issue- especially for older pupils, schools can demonstrate the impact of food wastage on their environment on a wider scale, similarly to Loughborough High who launched a campaign after realising how much food was being thrown out. They started by measuring a week’s waste and then filling the equivalent of black bags (around 20) with paper and card and putting them in the middle of the school hall so pupils saw them when they arrived for assembly. The students were then asked to come up with their ideas for reducing waste.
Visit Stop Food Waste Day’s website to learn more about the campaign.
Within the Education Industry
With most of the world in lockdown due to COVID-19, including schools, many workers are having to adapt to working from home, a new style of working for professionals in the education industry. For education professionals, this new style of working can bring up a variety of challenges, including how to continue as normal during these unusual working conditions.
To ensure working life continues as normal, we’ve put together our top tips for working from home, with simple points on how to keep some normality during these unprecedented times.
Set goals (and stick to them)
Even though many schools are shut and pupils are at home, it’s still important to try and set achievable goals for yourself, staff and students. These can include catching up on admin work, setting reading tasks for pupils or simply communicating with parents; by setting achievable goals, you’ll add some structure and normality into your new routine. If you need any assistance on software maintenance, the staff at ami are happy to help.
Set up a comfortable working space
Those of us who are not used to working from home are unlikely to be blessed with impressive office spaces, but it’s vital to set up a separate space that you can dedicate to your work.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of bringing your laptop onto the sofa, however, spaces that you use to relax should be reserved for just that purpose, otherwise, it can be difficult to switch off at the end of the day. If possible, set up a dedicated working space, such as a dining room table, spare room or anywhere in your home with minimal disruption.
Establish a routine
Routines are what keep us focused and grounded, and since we’re creatures of habit, it’s important to try and set and maintain a routine each day to help ease the transition into home working. Try and maintain similar habits that you practised when working out of the home, such as morning exercise, waking up at the same time every day, making a healthy breakfast etc. Sticking to a routine will eventually help to bring some normality into your new style of working.
Take regular breaks
When working in a school or education environment, it can often be difficult to find time to take regular breaks, especially if surrounded by pupils. When working from home, it can be easy to stay at your desk for hours without realising the time, which can have detrimental effects on your back and eyesight. Whether you get up to make a drink, stretch or simply pet your dog, set yourself a reminder to take regular screen breaks; your dog will appreciate the extra belly rubs!
Ask for support
Despite the COVID-19 crisis, business at ami will continue as normal, and our staff are here to help. If you have any queries regarding our software, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team. Remote working can lead to the feeling of isolation for many people, but it’s important to remember that we’re all in this situation together, therefore we should support each other during these difficult times.
With the ever-changing nature of this pandemic and new developments emerging daily, there has been an emphasis on taking each day as it comes. However, when it comes to working, this can be the perfect opportunity to schedule some time to plan-ahead, including for when schools are likely to open.
Councils and staff can use this time to monitor food trends to see the types of food pupils have been ordering, helping to determine which areas to focus on for spend and allowing schools to reduce food wastage and save money. This can be done through ami’s Infinity and Transact software, trusted by thousands of schools and councils across the UK.
Maintain regular communication
As professionals across the world make the transition from office to home-based working, it is vital for individuals and teams to maintain regular communication, even when discussing non-work-related topics.
One of the benefits of working within an office or school is the opportunity to chat with colleagues, discuss weekend plans and build friendships. Even though face-to-face contact is now minimised, with modern technology teams can continue that communication through tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, House Party and more, helping to maintain that important social interaction.
COVID-19 has proved to be challenging for many professionals in the education sector. By practising these simple methods and with business at ami continuing as normal, adapting to this new style of working can be seamless and straightforward. For help and support, please don’t hesitate to contact the team at aim.
Please stay at home and stay safe.
As schools face the many challenges caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) we want to assure you that at AMI Education we are closely monitoring the situation to ensure we can continue to support our customers.
We take our duty of care to our employees, customers and clients very seriously, and we will always follow the latest Government advice
Advice to Schools
As a valued AMI Education customer we appreciate the trust you put in us to ensure your systems continue to work seamlessly so we have outlined our continuity plans below.
If your school should need to close, we ask that your systems remain switched on and running. This will allow our support team to carry out remote upgrades and continue to work on any outstanding cases, helping to reduce any issues and ensuring your return to school is as seamless as possible.
In the event of COVID-19 closing the AMI office, or employees working from home in isolation, staff will be working from home using their office equipment.
For sales, please ring: 08456 717 101 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For support please: 08450 714 667 or email: email@example.com
These will be picked up as normal by the support/sales team and dealt with.
We may have to postpone site visits that have already been arranged, and there may be some delay in processing orders for parts. We encourage you to continue to place orders as normal and we will update you on the expected timelines as the order progresses.
As the coronavirus situation continues to evolve, our thoughts go out to all who have been impacted or infected. We hope you are safe, well and are taking all the necessary precautions.
With automated payment methods and debit cards replacing traditional cash payments, it is becoming more common within businesses, industries and now most recently schools to also make the switch 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 is the effect on 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 spend per pupil.
Although small payments such as those regularly made by parents for school meals, uniform and educational trips contribute considerably to the overall income of a school, 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. With a cashless system, the potential for unpaid fees is diminished.
Furthermore, budgets are benefited by taking cash out of schools by saving the hefty cost of the physical collection of cash to deposit at a bank. Ami’s cashless software generates daily, weekly or monthly reports with ease, providing access to reports 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 means the tiresome task of physically collecting and chasing cash payments from pupils and parents via mail and telephone can be cut down entirely.
Software such as ami’s Infinity and Transact frees up these important resources and allows them to be used in other ways. Administration staff can monitor payments and view historic purchases with ease and make audit trailing a lot more efficient. Schools in the UK using cashless software have saved on average two and a half days 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 for parents, it gives them the peace of mind that money is being spent in the way it is intended with online payments. Pre-paid school meals mean parents know that the money they give their children for healthy, nutritious meals, is being spent on just that!
Additionally, parents no longer need to send cash or cheques for circumstances such as school trips or extra-curricular activities. 90 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 as they are accessible from any location with an internet connection, optimising the increasing access parents have to computer and hand-held devices. According to The Telegraph, almost one in 10 public school pupils are from overseas and so this level of access is especially useful for those families.
What are the benefits of removing physical cash from schools?
Removing physical cash from schools allows for greater 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 with them and missing out on things such as meals, as they are already pre-ordered and paid for.
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 important time-saving benefits such as reducing queues. Schools can cut down lengthy waiting times for their students and staff through quick and simple identification methods such as PINs, pre-order kiosks and more.
With the ability to pre-order meals in advance, food wastage is greatly minimised. Ami’s software allows school meal service providers (i.e. kitchens either on the school premises or elsewhere) to know exactly how many portions of each meal option to prepare that day, eliminating the need for 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 circumstance.
Cashless systems have also been proven to promote healthy eating as it encourages pupils to eat the nutritious meals provided, something which is exceedingly important 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 are consuming in the hours they are not with them.