Sarah Phillips, Managing Director of WisePay, provider of online payments, bookings and communications services, explains how moving to a cashless payments system has whole-school benefits…
While it is clear that moving to a cashless system holds enormous benefits for school finance offices, administration staff and parents, the many ways it can help teachers and pupils day-to-day are often overlooked. Learning can improve and a harmonious environment can be encouraged simply by not having cash on school premises.
Stealing lunch money is possibly the oldest trick in the book when it comes to bullying. If children don’t have cash on them then this possibility is removed. Lack of money can also be a cause of bullying, but if every child is paying on a swipe card, their account balance will be secret, as will the amount of money they can spend daily. This also applies to Free School Meals. There remains a stigma about claiming a free meal – many families refuse it on grounds of pride, and sometimes pupils don’t claim it at school, preferring not to eat rather than let everyone know they qualify for the bursary. However, if pupils on Free School Meals use a cashless catering service, they simply queue for the tills like everybody else and swipe their card, which registers that they are entitled for a free lunch. The process looks exactly the same as for pupils who have topped up their accounts with cash; it therefore becomes impossible to tell who has had a free school meal and anonymity is protected. This discreteness around money contributes to an environment where pupils are all seen as equal and can be a social leveller in the same way as a school uniform. Self-esteem improves amongst pupils and there is one less cause for conflict in school.
Using a cashless catering service also ensures that pupils are eating healthy lunches, as opposed to sneaking off to nearby shops to buy junk food and sweets. Lunch money also cannot be lost or forgotten, meaning a child should never have to go without lunch or have to borrow small change from their friends. It is a well known fact that being well-nourished and eating healthy lunches improves alertness, concentration and engagement in lessons. Implementing a cashless payment solution helps to ensure that pupils do not miss their lunchtime meal, directly affecting their behaviour and achievements in the classroom.
An online payment platform also allows pupils to pay for school trips and equipment online, thereby reducing time sometimes wasted in lessons collecting cheques and permission slips, which the teacher then takes to the finance office. It also stops pupils from having to detour to the finance office and queue up outside – which can cut into valuable lesson time or the pupils’ breaks. All these small tasks can really eat into a school day and add an extra burden on everyone, but removing cash from the school can counter these problems and allow teachers and pupils to focus mainly on teaching and learning.
Finally, the more money that schools can save through streamlining their payment processes and administration departments, the more money can be freed up to invest in teacher CPD, innovative digital resources or replacing old technology, ultimately improving the learning experience for everyone.
Sarah Phillips is Managing Director of WisePay, provider of online payments, bookings and communications services.