How to engage parents in a cashless school

Julia Sharman

Education Adviser and Support Teacher. Over 25 years teaching experience. Specialist areas: education health needs, SEND and mental health.

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Is your school considering online payments for parents?

With a steady decline in the use of cheques, schools are becoming increasingly concerned with the growing amounts of cash being handled on school premises. Not only is this an obvious burden for school administrative staff, it also represents a substantial risk to a school’s security, which results in an increase in insurance coverage. There is not a better time to consider an alternative cashless payment mechanism that parents can use to settle costs for school trips, uniforms or other school related items.

Regardless of the number of transactions your school makes, you can benefit from becoming a cashless school. The benefits of an online payment portal direct to schools include: the reduction of administrative burden, no duplicate entries, fully auditable payments, and a reduction in the costs of security associated with handling cash and cheques on school premises. Hours can be saved by not having to count, report and bank cash or cheques received from pupils and parents. In addition, payments can be easily reconciled to give an up-to-date picture of who has paid for items and those with amounts outstanding.

Given that 1 in 11 transactions are now made online, resulting in an increase of 20% in all purchases, paying for items online is quickly becoming a familiar practice for many individuals.  For parents, the benefits of an online payment portal include: the elimination of the need to write out cheques or count cash to take into schools, faster transactions at the click of a button, and a traceable payment history. It also helps to drive traffic to your school website.

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“We have found it so much easier for parents to conveniently pay for school trips online. That combined with the fact that our office staff no longer need to manage cash and cheques has been a real benefit to our school. Sandesh Kuckian – Fernwood School

Things to consider before you start

Consider how much the set-up charges will cost and how much the annual or monthly fees will be. Costs vary considerably between providers of online payment solutions, as do transaction charges. Be mindful to check out if there are any additional costs for technical advice and support, and marketing materials. Consider what security and data protection features it comes with.

Concerns have been raised for parents who don’t have access to a computer, the Internet or credit /debit payment methods. These can be overcome if schools provide payment systems or computer access on site with an e-Payment portal. Some schools now have Pay Point or Payzone facilities. Payzone is a closed loop pre-paid card system which allows schools to provide an in-store top up facility in local Payzone merchants.

Choosing a system

Ask yourself the following questions to ensure you choose a system that meets your needs:

  • What systems does your school already have? Would an online payment system integrate with your existing one or do you need something independent?
  • What content do you want your system to provide – dinner money, school items, donations, fees etc?
  • Will the system integrate with your school bank account?

Implementing a system

Choose a start date and ensure that installation, set-up and training are completed by then.

Make a complete move; once you have started, don’t backtrack into accepting cash and cheques.

Give your parents plenty of warning, highlighting the benefits for them, by advertising via newsletters, school website, posters and flyers, conversation and through your Parent Teacher Association. Endeavour to promote maximum awareness for at least 4 to 6 months and point parents in right direction.

Keep the momentum high! Many systems enable you to add additional content to your payment system, such as school trip information, so make sure that you keep it fresh by updating it with new information.

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The next step: How to be a successful cashless school

  • Take the lead.  Mistakes can occur when there is a lack of ownership so ensure that your Finance or Senior Leadership Team takes responsibility to steer your school to becoming a cashless school.
  • Ask other schools for testimonials or personal advice so that you are confident when making a decision.
  • Make sure that everyone who will be using the system receives training. Most companies provide onsite or remote training when a new system is implemented, so make sure that you make the most of this.  It is vital that all members of staff are aware of how the new system works and what it intends to achieve.
  • Don’t make it easy for parents to give cash and cheques.  If you must provide the option, make the collection of cash and cheques available only one day a week to reduce extra administrative costs.
  • Start with a bang! Ensure that there are plenty of reasons for parents to use the new system, so keep it up to date with opportunities to pay.  Parents will keep coming back if they can trust that the system is timely and informative.
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