New Year and New Term For Payments in Education
School funding in the UK is in serious need of reform. In 2016, the government announced a consultation on how to distribute the £40 billion schools budget. For too long, school funding has been a postcode lottery, with rural and other areas losing out to inner cities.
Historic funding allocation, between the central government and local authority areas, also influence where the money flows, benefiting some schools, whilst depriving others. Forcing schools to make up funding gaps other ways. In practice, this means teachers, parents and the local community often play a role in ensuring students receive a comprehensive education.
Teachers use their own money to buy supplies and resources. They also put in their own time to run extra-curricular actives, school trips and fundraising events. In many areas of the country, parents expect to put more of their own money in to fund trips, extra activities and support schools through fundraising campaigns. As a consequence, family, friends and others in the communities, including local businesses, also offer financial support.
What are the implications for schools taking in money from other sources?
Cash. Notes and coins. So many coins! Plenty of cash flowing through schools over the course of an academic year. So do cheques, a rare payment method, but one that is still seen in schools.
Unfortunately, from an administrative and financial perspective, cash and cheques are a nuisance. It needs to be stored securely. It costs time and money (fees) to get deposited in banks. Parents, family, friends and teachers aren’t fond of cash either since it means taking money out, often getting change, then sending children to school with envelopes. With many of us more used to paying with cards or smartphones (mWallets), this is far from ideal.
Schools are slowly starting to embrace alternative payment options.
School Funding – New payment methods for schools
Throughout the year, parents give the most to schools, which means finding a solution that makes it easier for them should be top priority. Parents pay for trips, school dinners, after school clubs and other items. Making it quicker and easier for parents will also reduce the cost/admin burden on schools, whilst also encouraging new ways of raising money through charitable activities.
A Scottish Council trialled a new payment method in 2014, hoping to improve the customer (parent) experience, increase catering revenue and reduce the cost of processing cash. Part of the trial focused on rural areas (where there are fewer cash machines), deprived regions and the impact on vulnerable parents and carers.
After one academic year, 95% of payments were made online and through mobile devices. However, the study also showed that schools need to offer more than one payment method. Ideally, schools should have mobile payment options through responsive websites. Mobile wallets (mWallets) – either through banks, payment providers or some of the consumer-tech brands (Google, Samsung, Apple) and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology options in school reception areas can also provide schools with easier ways to take payments from parents.
With the new term underway, now is a good time for school management to sit down and assess if they are equipped to handle modern payment methods. It will cost schools that don’t adapt in lost revenue, a larger funding gap and higher processing costs.
To explore how your school or educational trust can make taking payments easier, more secure and reduce costs, contact our team. Call +44(0)808 159 3453 or email [email protected]