- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Categories: Feature, Media
A BURRY Port school has won praise for its use of a fingerprint ID system for cash-less payments at mealtimes.
Ysgol Glan-y-Mor has been operating the £30,000 system for some time and it has been hailed as the way to put an end to the “stigma” youngsters can face for claiming free school meals.
Mid and West Wales AM Joyce Watson has claimed some children in Wales are going hungry to avoid being seen to claim free meals.
In most schools, children pay cash for their dinners, while pupils eligible for free meals are given tickets.
But the AM believes this makes it easy for such children to be identified and put at risk of bullying — and now she wants more schools to follow Glan-y-Mor’s example.
After a visit to the school, Mrs Watson said: “Sixty eight per cent is the average take-up of free school meals where we have a system that identifies, against a near 100 per cent where we have a system that doesn’t identify those who have free school meals and those who don’t.
“In schools like Glan-y-Mor, going cash-less has ensured that pupils having free school meals cannot be identified and bullying for dinner money has been reduced
“Pupils can’t spend all their lunch money on snack food on the way to school and, by cutting queues, it gives them more time to eat and socialise with friends.”
Mrs Watson accepts biometric systems, where scans of pupils’ fingers are used to register payments, are controversial — and should only ever be used with parents’ support.
She went on: “In Glan-y-Mor they operate both fingerprint technology and swipe cards in case parents object to the school having access to their child’s personal data, but the vast majority of pupils and parents have opted for biometric ID, not least because it has removed the problem and expense of replacing lost cards.”
Head teacher Stephen Jones confirmed its piloting of a biometric payment system over the past four years had delivered results. He said it had cut the time pupils queued for lunches, as well as removing any stigma attached to free school meals.
“Nobody knows whose got free school meals so there’s no stigma attached to the free school meals aspect at all,” he said.
“We do have one of the highest free school meals take up in the county.”
And he said of the system: “The children like it. It’s almost a fun element to having their lunch, the fingerprints.
“It’s much quicker so they’re happy about that.
“The offshoot, I suppose, would be that parents can actually have computerised printouts of all the food and drink that their children consume and they can keep an eye on whether they’re having a healthy diet or not.”