A highly important aspect of the social and mental development of children through their teen years is the feeling of acceptance. A large part of their school life centres around social interaction with their peers, and children want to be children without feeling ostracised due to reasons beyond their control.
In some schools, a number of children are even forgoing their lunch due to the embarrassment of having their peers know of their free school meal status. More than a quarter of children entitled to free school meals take a packed lunch instead because they fear being stigmatised, according to a study by the Institute for Social and Economic Research. The study highlighted 30% of more than 1.1 million children entitled to the benefit do not take it up.
Another potential issue is “rural pride”, which can often prevent parents claiming free school meals according to research from Bangor University. However, a non-public method in order to claim meals can often encourage far more students and parents to take up the offer according to the research. Having meals paid for electronically means that as far as the children are concerned, everybody is the same. There is no need for separate queuing or a voucher system to make certain children stand out.
Hob Green Primary school are an average sized primary school in the middle of a council estate with a high unemployment rate. With the introduction of SchoolMoney, the school’s parents found an unexpected benefit – several reported that their children were eating food at school that they wouldn’t eat at home. The children were also unaware of their peers’ status in regard to meal payment which therefore allowed for better inclusion. Students were less likely to be missing an integral meal or forgoing the nutritional benefits that a healthy lunch could offer them. It may sound trite but it’s true: If a diet lacks essential nutrients, it can hurt student’s ability to concentrate. Eating too little can also interfere with focus ability.
One of the main issues preventing schools from going cashless is the concern that it won’t suit all parents. Schools who make the jump tend to find the majority of parents are quickly on board, but there are always a few who prefer cash or don’t have access to a bank account for a plethora of reasons. Progressing towards going cashless has not been without its challenges, particularly for people in more difficult financial situations.
There are a variety of ways in which these concerns are addressed and considered. PayPoint, which is available in around 29,000 locations around the country allows parents who still use cash out of preference or necessity makes school payments at their local shops. Time-saving and inclusive, topping up meal credit is now as easy as buying bread from the corner shop. For more information about going cashless at your school, take a look at our whitepaper on “Going cashless in education”.