Croydon Council award winning solution


Council Needs

In the past schools in Croydon had a range of methods for managing dinner money, few of which were efficient or robust. Most schools were heavily reliant on the manual collection of cash and cheques, with no automation or underlying systems. Income was being collected, counted, recorded and reconciled manually, then either banked by the school or collected by security vans.

These processes meant that accurate reconciliation of central income against the school meal numbers or the catering service invoices was virtually impossible. Pupil debt often went unchecked for weeks at a time with a lack of access to timely information available to either the catering team or the schools. Croydon Council had worked hard to improve the quality of meals served, with new menus, freshly prepared meals and a range of sustainable and fresh ingredients. Whilst the new menus were meeting the food-based and nutrient-based standards, the catering team had difficulty in measuring the success of different menu choices, or driving the overall uptake of the free and paid meals.

Solution

During 2007 the authority started its ambitious project by delivering ParentPay Dinner Money™ for the collection and administration of dinner money and the management of the meal service in primary schools. The initial objective was to enhance the sustainability of the service, through efficiency savings and increased meal numbers. Parents could pay online by debit or credit card through their secure ParentPay account and view menus and nutritional analysis.

Cash payments through any PayPoint retailer were offered to parents not able to pay online, ensuring social inclusion and broad uptake of the service. The next objective was to work to improve children’s health by collecting meal choice and nutritional data at source.

This phase developed and implemented the new ParentPay Data Capture™module with Nationwide Retail Systems’ Trust-e cashless catering system to deliver a fully integrated meal service solution across the borough’s schools.

Implementation

ParentPay was responsible for providing a range of key front-line implementation, training, project management and support services to Croydon and its schools:

  • Setup and launch support to all schools
  • MIS data synchronisation for 45,000 pupils
  • School manager training
  • Project management, reviews and user feedback
  • On-going customer support to all school users and the council

The roll out of ParentPay Data Capture and the Nationwide Retail Systems’ Trust-e system was successfully completed in the 2008 autumn term. Nine secondaries have since joined the project enjoying the benefits that ParentPay Data Capture brings.

Delivering success

The Croydon e-Pay Cashless Schools Project has been successful in meeting its core objectives to create cashless schools across the borough. Meal numbers for free and paid meals are continuing to increase, pupil debt has been massively reduced and the authority has seen a very large increase in prepayments for school meals.

ParentPay’s centralised reporting has meant simple income reconciliation across the contract, with Croydon able to access real-time data for meal numbers, FSM take-up, income and even menu choices.

Income collection grew dramatically to £1.6m in the 2007/2008 academic year and an estimated £3.2m in 2008/2009.  Many schools now collect other school income including school trips, before/after school clubs and uniform. They use ParentPay as their income management solution, working towards becoming entirely cashless.

Marianne Lewis, e-Pay Cashless Schools Programme Manager, said “ParentPay has reduced our schools’ dinner management administration workload by up to 80% in some cases. It has helped free up the time of our school office staff, enabling them to redeploy that time to dealing with other issues.”

Project outcomes

  • Increased take up of both free and paid school meals
  • Cash and cheques removed from the meals service
  • Improved sustainability through efficiency savings
  • Streamlined administrative processes
  • Improved child safety and social inclusion
  • Reduced errors with a completely electronic audit trail
  • Convenient service for parents
  • Reduced need for secure cash collection services, lowering the authority’s overall CO2 impact

Croydon Council’s Executive Director of Resources & Customer Service, Nathan Elvery, said “Providing meal data online gives every parent a good reason to use online technology to view their children’s meal choices and nutritional information.”

Commenting on ParentPay’s delivery team, Marianne continued “The quality of the training given by ParentPay has been excellent. We’ve also found the team to be responsive, effective and efficient in dealing with support queries from parents, schools and the Council.”

Following the e-Government National Award, Corporate Catering Manager Allyson Lloyd commented “We were delighted to be recognised with this award. The project has improved the sustainability of the school meals service which contributes to the health of children by supplying high quality healthy meals in Croydon schools.”