Sandwick Junior High School’s secondary department has become the first school in Shetland to trial a cashless system for paying for school meals.
The voluntary pilot scheme went live today, with pupils whose parents had opted into the system paying for their lunches with a swipe card.
The introduction of the scheme is likely to be popular, said head teacher Stuart Clubb, with many of the 175-pupil school wanting to be part of it.
It works by having an additional function – paying for canteen meals – added to the Young Scot cards, which provide proof of age and entitlement to discounts on various services, the pupils already have. Eventually it is anticipated that more functions, such as bus fares or payments for school trips, will be added to the cards.
Mr Clubb said: “The benefit is that it removes the need for pupils to be taking cash into school, it reduces the administration in collecting money and there will be less cash in the building.”
Pupils can register by computer and, once activated, their parents can go online and load the card with their chosen sum at home. Alternatively pupils can have their cards loaded at school. As the money (at present) can only be spent in the school canteen, parents can be sure their child is eating from a healthy range, rather than spending cash on snacks from outwith the school. Parents can also view transactions on line.
Mr Clubb said: “From the school’s point of view it encourages the use of the canteen. Parents will have more control as pupils will have to use the canteen as opposed to the shop.” And daily “negotiations” about money will be avoided.
Another benefit, he said, is that as the cards are pre-loaded it will no longer be obvious who is on free school meals – at present tokens have to be collected from the office. “There will be no stigma, no-one will know.”
The card will also cut down queuing in the canteen, which could eventually be cashless.
Youth development worker Wendy Lowe, on hand for the launch, said: “It will encourage bairns to use the canteen and parents can be reassured the money goes on healthy meals.”
Youth development worker Martin Summers said the scheme had a number of benefits. “It encourages pupils to purchase meals at school and as you don’t know who gets free school meals it reduces the stigma around poverty.”
Meanwhile pupils found the cards worked well for lunch time purchases.
S1 pupil Rachel Clarke, buying a baked potato and beans, said: “It’s better than loads of cash in your purse.”
Madeleine Chivers, S2, said there would not be so much risk of losing money, and fellow S2 pupil James Monaghan said: “It’s easier that a lot of cash in my pocket.” Another S2 pupil, Ruairidh Nicolson, buying a ham wrap, said: “It’s going to be good, it’s faster than handing over cash.”
Mr Clubb said he is looking forward to the outcome of the cashless pilot scheme, which he expects to become increasing popular.
Mr Summers is on a steering group that has been working on the card for some time, and is in discussion with Shetland Recreational Trust and transport providers with the view to the card developing into a “one stop card” for Young Scot card holders from 11 to 26 years of age. Eventually all Shetland residents could have a smartcard for a wide range of functions.