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 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.
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 that 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