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all eat up valuable funds and time. The European Commission has calculated that the total cost to society of all payments handling add up to some 3% of GDP across Europe – more than the entire agricultural sector – with cash accounting for at least 65% of the total. According to Paul Smee, CEO

of the Payments Council, “There are many more efficient ways of making payments than by paper in the 21st century and the time is right for the economy as a whole to reap the benefits of its replacement.” In the commercial world,

most cashless payment systems operate with credit or debit cards. According to the European Central Bank in 2008, €1.6trn was spent on cards and has increased by 12% every year since then. But card transactions are also

expensive, with each individual transaction commanding a fee to the bank or card issuer, averaging 0.2% for debit cards and almost 1% for credit cards.

Social benefits However, technology offers a different and cheaper way, with the growth of cashless payment systems that use ‘electronic purse’ cards (think Oyster) that can be topped up online or at terminals. Now the transaction charge is only levied on the top up, not every individual transaction. There are other advantages,

especially in schools, in making payments ‘invisible.’ In a recent study on the

economics of education and health in the Borough of Greenwich, Dr Jonathan James for the University of

Essex, found that cashless payment systems could play powerful roles in combating the stigma associated with take-up of free school meals as well as providing valuable data sources on children’s diet choices. Schools and colleges alike are

discovering benefits in freeing young people from having to carry cash in their purses and pockets. “Creating cashless schools can

also reduce the social stigmas linked with free school meals, support the healthy eating agenda, help reduce bullying and anti- social behaviour and assist in reducing crime amongst young people,” said Clint Wilson, CEO of ParentPay. “It can also help with school

administration, take pressure off finance staff and allow schools to redirect resources, giving clear, concise reporting on income streams,” Wilson said.

Market leaders Many schools now use the systems developed by ParentPay, the business founded by working parent and ex-teacher Lynne Taylor in 2002 as a bid to help her local school and make life easier for other parents. The organisation is now a

privately owned software company that offers a unique web-based application that allows parents to make secure online payments by credit and debit card or pay cash at local stores through the PayPoint network. ParentPay now provides services

to over 2,000 schools across 165 local authorities and now helps schools collect and manage more than £100m in annual

ABOVE: Capita SIMS' powerful abilities to link between databases BELOW: Ryvers School, Slough: using technology to convert to academy status

parent payments. When it comes to cashless

technologies for further and higher education, significant names include Capita SIMS, which offers a wide range of payment solutions, integrated into the company’s management information systems. The company says many schools

and colleges are still not taking full advantage of the possibilities offered by credit and debit card payments – not only to pay significant amounts like fees but also to pay for smaller services like car parking, food in the cafeteria or course materials. “At a time of tighter budgets and

increased competition to atract students, a college cannot waste its resources chasing arrears, paying costly bank charges from cash and cheque transactions, or more importantly diverting staff from other tasks to collect cash or re-key payment details in order to update ‘back-office’ systems,” says Capita in its white paper ‘The Winning Card’.

Joined up thinking Using cheques and cash for ad-

“Creating cashless schools can also reduce the social stigmas linked with free school meals, support the healthy eating agenda and help reduce bullying and anti-social behaviour…” Clint Wilson, ParentPay CEO

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