28 Oct Head teacher’s Blog 28.10.18
As of Monday October 29 2018, the day that our students and teachers return after their half-term break, Daubeney Academy will be a cashless school. As was explained to all members of our community in a letter before we broke up for half-term, on Friday October 19, payments for either breakfast club, breaktime snacks or school lunches should now be made primarily via the ParentMail app that we already use as one of our principal forms of communication with parents. For the minority of parents who have still don’t use ParentMail (and it really is only a handful of parents as almost 80% of our community are now registered) we will continue to accept payments via cheque (made out to TCMAT t/a Daubeney Academy) or cash in an envelope handed to the main office at the beginning of the school day by the adult (not given to the student to put in their bag and then lose or forget about!) As a father of two school age children myself, I use ParentMail for exactly the same purpose at their school in Milton Keynes and I find it to be a wonderfully simple system that takes all the stress out of rummaging around in the spare change pot or looking in my usually empty wallet on a Sunday evening before they are set to return for another week of learning. The app is incredibly easy to navigate, and all I need to do at the beginning of each half-term is select which days I would like my kids to have a school lunch (I pick every day!) and then make sure that I’ve put enough credit onto their accounts. On the odd occasions that I’ve forgotten to add any credit or when my credit is getting low (which, by the way, is particularly embarrassing as I’m also the vice chair of governors at the school!) I get a notification from ParentMail and one simple click of a button later it’s all sorted out. Like anything new, and especially anything that’s technological, it can seem a bit daunting at first to move away from an old system that’s been in place for a long time, but I would suggest that all parents who get on board with this process will find exactly what I found, namely that it saves time, worry and hassle when having to think about what my children will be doing for lunch each day.
Simplicity, however, isn’t the only reason that we decided to become a cashless school, and the process towards this point was actually started over a year ago by the superb admin team who are based in our main office and who are led by Mrs Willis. Two other factors behind the move away from carrying money were potential bullying and concerns about unhealthy food and drink that some of our students were consuming. Although we have yet to have any instances of students demanding to have someone else’s lunch money, the idea of any members of our community, but in particular the younger or more vulnerable ones, having money on them has always been something that didn’t sit easily with me. Not having any money on them, in my opinion, would make them even safer in school. In terms of healthy eating, of course, we updated our eating & drinking policy in consultation with our community last year in order to make clear which items were allowed in school and which weren’t, and although the vast majority of students and parents are clearly very much on board with this there are some who still try to sneak cans of energy drink or bags of sweets into school. In some cases, I have even known students who will be given up to £20 by their parents in the morning for their lunch and one stop at a local shop later the students are £19.50 lighter with a bag laden with cans of Monster, packets of Haribo and bars of chocolate that you would only ever expect to see on Christmas Day morning. Again, not having any money to spend before they actually get into school would make our students not only safer but also healthier and more able to maintain a calm and purposeful approach to learning in lessons.
As mentioned earlier, ParentMail is only one of the many ways that we communicate with the community that we are proud to serve; we are also very active on social media (our whole school Twitter account, our subject area Twitter accounts, our whole school Facebook account and our whole school YouTube account all have many followers and likes) and we are one of the only schools I know who publish the direct email addresses of our teachers so that parents and students can communicate directly and quickly about any concerns they have or points that they would like to raise. Equally, our teacher presence at the beginning and at the end of the school day is high, with senior leaders always available for chats about anything that has happened or to answer queries that anyone may have. I would anticipate some questions about the cashless system that we have implemented and I would, of course, be more than happy to talk anyone through how to set up or use the ParentMail app if they would like some assistance, as would any of my colleagues in the main office who, if I’m honest, are much more knowledgeable than I am about how it works. As with any new initiative that we put in place, our aim with the cashless system is to secure improvements for our school and for our community and I genuinely believe that these new procedures will lead to our students being even happier and even healthier than they already are.