Any office folk out there? Lunch money woes...(18 Posts)
How do you handle lunch money arrears? I have been treated to lots of angry responses from parents because I send letters detailing what they owe. I don't know what I'm doing wrong.
I have sympathy - its always the same people - you find yourself embarrassed by the situation but you can only send so many polite reminders. Assuming you've checked their FSM eligibility - You have to tell them that if £x is not paid by xx then unfortunately their details will be passed on to the debtors section of the school meal dept at County Hall or wherever. Ultimately if a child is not eligible for FSM then its the parents responsibility to provide food for their child either by providing a packed lunch or paying for the school meal on offer.
Our school send the messages out by text, would that be easier?
We had massive issues when I became Head and I've worked really hard to address them. Parents are only allowed to go 3 weeks into debt.
1. If they don't pay on the Monday we send them a text reminding them.
2. If they haven't paid by Friday we send them a letter reminding them
3. After 3 weeks if they're still in debt we write to them & phone them telling them that they need to provide a packed lunch for their child & pay the debt.
4. We continue to pester them until they pay up. We don't allow the child to go on any (paid for) trips until the debt is paid.
Its harsh but you wouldn't go to Tescos, take & eat the food before paying for it.
On the other hand, the parents know that if they are stuck they can come & talk to us and we'll help them.
With regard to arrears built up in the past we create a payment plan & make them stick to it
When we were part of the LA we would text, send letters and ring and after three weeks debts had build up would refer to the LA debtors section who took over chasing the debt.
Now we are an academy we only allow them two days credit and then phone and ask them to bring sandwiches or collect their child at dinnertime! We wouldn't let a child go hungry but we don't let the parents know that.
Hedge - I think it is very unkind to punish the child by not letting them go on school trips until the dinner money debt is paid. It is not the child's fault that their parents have not paid up. Also, I thought that all children had to be given the opportunity to go on class trips regardless of whether or not the parents had paid for the trip. At my school we have several parents who are not in a position to pay for trips and these children are paid for by the school. If it is an educational trip they surely have a right to go.
As a parent I would find things easier if you could pay a whole half terms school dinners in one go. It would also help if you could pay by debit card instead of cash.
You school might already do this but mine doesn't.
Why are they angry? Are the disputing what they owe? If the letters are correct then you have to live with them being angry and know you're in the right. Unfortunately some people just aren't very nice and when you have a job dealing with the public over money, you often feel the brunt of it.
Our school has 4 standard letters that go out a week apart, if the previous one hasn't brought an adequate response.
1) Signed by school admin, very polite reminder that £x is due
2) Chaser to first letter, slightly firmer
3) Signed by head. £x due by y date and points out that failure to provide your child with lunch or the means to purchase lunch is a serious matter and will be reported as a matter of child protection if necessary
4)From the governors advising parent(s) that the report is about to be made.
And, yes, not providing lunch or cash for a child is a matter for child protection. Not the one off, a bit late paying, but repeated offenders, who don't respond to letters 1-3 will have lots of other issues too and the family will be in need of support.
Cheesy, I'd check that. When I was a parent at the school (before I worked there) I thought I had to pay daily, but actually they'll take however much you want to pay and just keep a rolling tally. Card is trickier because it costs the school to set up.
Our school has just switched to ParentPay. AMAZING for me as a parent - no more trying to find the change in the morning, or remembering to get £20 worth at the supermarket. I just log on and credit the account and the kids have dinners when they want.
If you can't do it via internet there are special cards that people can top up at shops.
I really do not envy you OP, I would hate to have to deal with parents and money. I think it would be extremely stressful at times
We pay online now
So much easier
Can pay for as many weeks as we like & minimum is 5 days
Can pay through paypal too so selling stuff can pay for meals !
Thanks so much everyone.
The parents are angry because they have never been chased before, I am new! But I will keep going with it. Not thought of it in terms of cp, will raise it with my head.
Would love electronic payment, will investigate.
We found it helped enormously if it was never allowed to build up. Two days, then told they need to pay by that week or no more dinners. If people have struggled to pay when they should, they are not going to find it easy - or even possible - to somehow find the money for a debt of several weeks, are they ?
We use ParentPay at the school where I work and it is bloody brilliant. We have just been using it for lunch money but one of my things is to move the whole school over to being cashless - online payments for instrumental tuition, trips etc. Just rolling it out this term with the music and a couple of trips, but the music department are weeping with joy, and the trip organisers are very happy at not having to handle cash any more. Rachel here's the link
If parents set up text reminders they will see when their account is running low so you shouldn't get these debts building up - and it's easy for parents to use.
I don't work for ParentPay - honest!
But worth pushing your SLT.
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