Thinking of Going Cashless? How to Secure the Right Payment Solution

24 May 2021
Cashless payment systems aren’t a new concept in UK schools. For over 10 years, schools across the country have been converting their payments to online systems in what we call the ‘cashless revolution’. From our recent research, we found that 60% of UK schools already have the facility for cashless payments, with 23% saying they are planning to go cashless within the next two years.
  Of those schools that are already cashless, 65% are fully cashless, 33% are partly cashless, and only 2% are still cash only. And it’s no surprise, adopting a cashless system can bring benefits beyond streamlining your payment processes. With a successful cashless system, school office staff have noticed an increase in efficiency, which has led to more time being freed up to focus on other admin tasks. Parents and pupils have also noticed significant benefits. Parents can be safe in the knowledge that their cash is going to the right places, not getting lost, stolen, or spent irresponsibly. For children, a cashless system for meals can help to anonymise free school meals payments, reducing the stigma around children who qualify. Successful cashless systems can also help schools to increase their income, especially through fundraising. Our research has shown that schools with a successful cashless solution have noticed that parents are more willing to make fundraising donations, as the process is much simpler and safer. One school has even increased their fundraising income by over 180% by collecting payments online. With the benefits that a cashless system can bring, your school may already be considering the transition away from being fully cash-based. But choosing the right cashless payment solution for your school isn’t an easy decision. We’d like to lend a hand with this, so we've pulled together a short checklist to help guide your search.

Pick a Payment Solution That’s Tailor-made for You

Your school is unique1 Your school is unique. You won’t want the same solution as every other school; you have your own goals and needs which will require a tailored solution to effectively meet them. Some primary schools, for instance, may not need a cashless till function, but may want the benefits of removing cash payments. Take Gloucestershire, where ParentPay is used as a standalone payment and meal management solution in 175 primary schools in the County meals contract. For them, this bespoke solution has already helped to contribute to a 26% increase in meal uptake in schools who are taking online payments.   But successes like this aren’t part and parcel of any cashless payments system. Successful outcomes are usually a result of thought-out planning, with schools and local authorities working with experienced suppliers who will ask the right questions to create the right solution. Anne Bull, former LACA (Lead Association for Catering in Education) National Chair gives schools some advice before they begin searching for a cashless solution: “Our partners recognise that schools have different needs and they are able to offer the right solution to create a fully cashless school. Meeting parental expectations as well as saving school resource time is also important.”.

Futureproof Your School

Keep an open mind when searching for your ideal cashless solution, you don’t want to limit yourself with a system that can’t be flexible to your school’s changing wants and needs. It will help your search to have a clear definition of your possible future needs. Right now, you may not be looking to collect online payments for trips, clubs, or uniforms (the benefits aren't just limited to school meals!), but implementing a solution that can facilitate a variety of payment items may be key to future success.

Get to Know Your Stakeholders

Engaged from day one A cashless payment solution isn’t just for schools, it’s for parents and caterers too, and you’ll need all your stakeholders on board for the transition to be a success. There’s no use implementing a payment service that parents don’t want to use! While there’s a lot that can be done to get your stakeholders on board once your system is in place, it’s much more effective to involve everyone in the search for the right provider, so they are engaged from day one. Clint Wilson, Corporate Development Director at ParentPay, stressed the importance of school staff understanding all of their key stakeholders’ and customers’ needs, before selecting a cashless solution: “Initially it’s about joining up what parents, schools and caterers want. Most importantly, there are some questions that need to be asked both of yourselves and of potential suppliers, to ensure that any investment you make allows your school to realise the full benefits going cashless can have.”.

What Else Do You Need to Consider?

Understanding your school’s needs and aligning these with your stakeholders is key for finding your perfect cashless solution. But what else should you consider when searching around?
      1. 1. Goals
Have you clearly set your targets and goals in relation to becoming an online cashless school? Consider how achievable and realistic these are and what your strategy is to achieve them. This could include the goals for how your new solution will benefit your school as well as your parents and caterers.
  1. 2. Functionality
If your School Leadership Team and/or Governors need a reason to introduce an online cashless system, your case will be stronger if you can maximise the types of services that your school can collect income from. Consider if your school can take payments for school meals, trips, clubs, uniforms, and special events.
  1. 3. Cost
Your new system won't be free. Make sure you read up on annual license costs and whether you will need to pay for additional features.
  1. 4. Automation
Your school will already use a student management information system (MIS), and your cashless system will need to integrate with this, otherwise, your admin tasks will shoot through the roof! Making sure your MIS can regularly update your cashless payment system will save you time and reduce possible human errors.
  1. 5. Value
It sounds simple, but it needs to be asked: will your cashless solution add value to the existing services being provided to pupils and parents by the school? Make sure that your cashless system will complement the wants and needs of everyone who will be affected by it. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and there’s still much more you could be considering when searching for your perfect cashless solution.

It’s Not as Much Work as it Sounds!

While this decision isn’t one to be taken lightly, and careful planning and strategy will need to be done before picking the right provider for your school, it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it sounds. If you'd like some more information on how to secure the best payment solution for your school, get in touch here. We’ve also created a checklist to help you make your decision, so you can be well on your way to securing the perfect cashless payment provider. Click below to download our checklist for 'How to Secure the Right Cashless Payment Provider'. Download our checklist for 'How to Secure the Right Cashless Payment Provider'
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