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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.
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.
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