Online payment systems have transformed the lives of individuals worldwide – now there’s rarely any need to visit a bank in person, queue up to renew your car tax, or even trudge around the supermarket for hours every month, if you choose not to.
The benefits of paying for items online are not exclusively for consumers, however. For the businesses and organisations that offer the option of online payment, the advantages are significant, easing the strain on administration resources and reducing the workload of staff.
In particular, schools, nurseries, colleges and playgroups are enjoying the perks provided by ParentMail. More than 6,000 organisations use the service to communicate to, and collect payments from, around four million parents. It makes a real difference to parents – over 90% of whom want to pay online – but also for school staff. The headaches and hassle which used to be part of everyday organisational tasks can now be completely removed.
Collecting dinner money is a prime example. Paying online is a great option all round. Parents top up their account online, schools input which pupils have had a dinner and the system automatically deducts the cost of the meal from each account. Pupils don’t need to walk from home to school carrying money, which alleviates security concerns, chances of losing their cash or it being spent on the wrong things.
Where once school staff had to send out reminders to parents, chase up payment, and then handle assorted varieties of cash – all those coins! – or cheques, and then manually record and amend totals, today the process is so much smoother.
One Primary School in London, Holy Ghost, has witnessed genuine improvements since collecting dinner money online. The parents have embraced the change, with 80% of them now using the system, but more importantly, for the school, it has saved considerable time.
Previously, one member of staff was spending ten hours each and every week processing and banking payments, and chasing mums and dads for outstanding monies.
At Wirral Grammar School for Boys, in Merseyside, the experience is the same. “We take a lot of money each month with numerous school trips and school dinners, which is labour intensive to collect and process,” said Rachel Murphy, senior finance officer. “Collecting payments electronically, we felt, could simplify and overcome this.”
It’s not just about convenience. It combats the more serious issue of dinner money debt. In December 2013, it was reported that schools in the North East of the UK were owed £200,000 by parents in unpaid dinner money. The bigger picture is even more shocking. A study conducted by ParentMail last year showed that schools in the UK saved over £47 million across 12 months by replacing traditional procedures with online communications and payment management systems.
The system can be used for more than dinner money collection, too, taking payment, and organising pupil numbers for, school concerts, plays and shows, and overseas and domestic excursions. The bottom line is, schools have discovered a way of not only operating more efficiently, but also rapidly cutting down on human hours needed to run everyday tasks.