Schools go cashless in bid to end free meal stigma

Families can pay for school trips and dinners in advance using new online service ParentPay.

Schools go cashless in bid to end free meal stigma Getty Images

Glasgow parents are paying for school dinners and trips online as secondaries and primaries go completely cashless in a move praised for ending free meal stigma.

Using ParentPay, families can pay for school trips and other costs and parents of primary children can pre-order meals in advance.

Another system will also see forms and permission slips available online instead of pupils bringing them home in school bags to be filled in. 

The new online service Parents Portal, which can be used for filling out consent forms, viewing the calendar and completing the annual data check – is being rolled out on a phased basis to different schools.

Green party Councillor Elaine Gallagher questioned whether some families could be disadvantaged by the online systems at a council meeting on Thursday. 

Commenting on ParentPay, council official Lorna Goldie told the education, skills and early years city policy committee: “If a parent doesn’t have access to online banking we offer a bar code, which can be used at any paypoint system across Glasgow to put credit on the system.”

She said manual systems would be involved when families can’t access Parents Portal. Ms Goldie pointed out some children above P5 have an ipad for use at home or information could be updated in the school office if families are visiting.

Councillor Gallagher said: “It is good to hear there are efforts to make sure people are not disadvantaged but I’m still concerned there are no equalities impact assessments being noted or added to the reports.”

The assessments look at the impact of processes on different groups of people. 

Education executive director Douglas Hutchison said equalities impact assessments would be referenced or included in the future.

Councillor Fiona Higgins, Labour, pointed out a number of residents have been struggling to use ParentPay as it was down or mistakenly showed their child was at the wrong school. 

She asked if there “was something in place to resolve these functionality issues.”

Ms Goldie said the project was rolled out in June and issues with teething problems will improve on guidance issued. 

Councillor Imran Alam, Labour, asked if the information on Parents Pay is translated into different languages. He was told the council would look at getting instructions sent to parents in different languages as there is no translated information on the front end of Parents Pay. 

Praising ParentPay, councillor Fyeza Ikhlaq said she thinks it is “great.”

The SNP councillor said: “It has many advantages including removing the stigma associated with being a free school meal pupil.”

She added: “I had the same concerns as Councillor Gallagher. Not every parent has access to the internet.”

Data from July 22 showed 4,398 parents had been linked with pupils on Parents Portal. 

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