The physical exchange of money and face to face planning will soon become a thing of distant memory. Education Business looks at current trends in cashless payments and investigates how parents can be the main beneficiaries of cashless schools.
The UK is quickly becoming a cashless society. Most school-aged pupils would find the concept of paying a conductor on a bus laughable in the face of Oyster cards and contactless payment. Coin operated parking meters are becoming more difficult to locate and mobile payment apps are becoming commonplace, meaning that less and less physical money is being exchanged.
Therefore, it is no surprise that schools are increasingly becoming cashlessly centred. Having been at the forefront of embracing digital technology in the classroom – finding an overhead projector in a modern school could be deemed impossible – much of the latest technology has focussed on cashless school meals, with schools eager to introduce pre-paid school lunches, eradicating the need for pupils to carry lunch money, and bringing the relationship between school and parent ever closer.
However, schools are displaying more cutting edge technology than to solely offer catering benefits. Encouraging efficiency and ensuring that staff, parents and students can interact and operate to the best of their abilities is a change that is gaining momentum. It is a strange concept to get your head around, but could it be possible that the more contactless schools become, the more connected they can be with parents and pupils?
For schools, and those working within them, the benefits are clear to see. Cashless payments reduce the time it takes to handle money in the school building, which saves money and frees up resources to be used in other ways. Many systems will automatically generate emails, texts and letters to remind parents of when balances are due, reducing the task of chasing parents for money. This lessens the burden on admin staff who find themselves with less paperwork to handle, less costs being spent on printing and stationery, and more time assisting the schools in more beneficial ways.
For parents, the benefits perhaps need to be stronger as it is they that will ultimately decide whether to leave physical money with their children or not. Cashless payments allow them the peace of mind that money is being spent in the way it is intended – on a school dinner, club or trip – rather than a visit to sweet shop at lunchtime for example. There is also a safety element involved, as cash carried in person can provoke theft.
Spending with intention
There is a belief in retail that shoppers always tend to purchase more in store than they would otherwise do online – tempted by what they physically can see rather than focused on what they intended to buy. The case can be made that the same can be applied to schools. While the food on offer in school kitchens is undoubtedly becoming healthier and more nutritious, children are far more likely to overspend with cash in hand than they are if parents pay digitally. While this may only be the case for catering – and not say, school trips – making financial decisions instantly and with assurance is fundamental for parent‑school relationships. School trips can be very expensive, and not only the glamorous ski trips to the Alps or sports tours to the Southern Hemisphere. While many parents are physically unable to pay, many more are put off by sending their child to school with the payment. Meeting parent expectations is crucial, and ensuring peace of mind is paramount.
Cashless payments can have a positive effect on schools in reducing administration and paper work and removing the security risks involved with keeping money on the school premises, while allowing parents and students more flexibility.
For many people, however, cash and cheques remain their preferred method of payment, and with an increase in free to use ATMs, cash will still be around for years to come. Nonetheless, while apps and websites begin to offer more alternative payment and purchasing options, so should schools. And as parents begin to acclimatise to the payment landscape change around them, the change in schools should be embraced and not feared.