What our customers say...
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 the global food wasted 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.
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.
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.