Cashless Catering FAQ

Cashless Catering System Information

At Wilmslow High students no longer need to carry cash to school to buy food.  Instead students identify themselves at the till using either thumbprint scanners or PIN codes. Thumbprint recognition is also used for book loans in the LRC.  It is a legal requirement that we have your written permission to use this technology so, as part of our induction process, you will be given a consent form on which you will indicate whether you wish your child to have their thumbs scanned or not.  If students are not scanned they identify themselves with a PIN code which is then checked with their name and photograph.

ParentPay online payments system

In order to allow you easily to pay money into a student’s cashless catering account, and also to facilitate payments for educational visits and other items, we use ParentPay.  This is an online payment system that allows you to put credit into students’ accounts and soon, we hope, purchase items (such as educational visits or sportswear) in much the same way as you might top-up a mobile phone or buy a book on Amazon.  Many parents will already be used to using this system, or a similar one, for Primary School payments.

You will have a secure online account, activated using a unique username and password; you will be prompted to change these, and to keep them safe and secure.  If you have more than one child at our school or another school that uses the same system, you can merge their accounts to create one login for all your children.

Key advantages of ParentPay are that it allows you easily to check how much credit students have in their account and then top it up from home, without having to send a cheque or cash into school.  You will also be able to see information about how your child is spending the money you have credited to their account. More information is available at .

Frequently Asked Questions:

My child did not get their lunch today: why was this allowed to happen?

We will never knowingly send a child away without their lunch, and service in the canteen always continues until 1.15pm or, in the event of some unforeseen circumstance delaying service, until everyone has been served.  Occasionally a student has a problem with their account that prevents them from paying for their food but we have a system for lending money to children who find themselves in this position: please read our Help leaflet.  If a child has not managed to get food for whatever reason, they should speak to a member of the Student Services team on duty in High Options, explaining that they have not had their lunch: no one should go away hungry.

My child will be having packed lunches: do I need to do anything with this information?

It is still a good idea to set up a ParentPay account when you get the letter with your information in, even if you do not credit any money.  This helps us by ensuring we have a working email address for you, and means that if you need to give your child credit at short notice (e.g. because they have forgotten their lunch) it is easy for you to do.  You may well consider it worth crediting a few pounds to their account now for emergencies like this.

We will also need to have your written reply with your decision on whether we can scan your child’s thumbs for our biometric system, whether they plan to use High Options or not, as the same system is used in the LRC: you will receive a personalised letter for this purpose.

What is a Cashless System?

A Cashless Catering System is a solution that allows students to purchase meals and other items without having to carry cash to school.

What does “biometric” mean?

Biometric recognition is simply a method of identifying an individual person by taking some measurements. We use an algorithm-based scan, which reads between 50 & 130 points on the finger/thumb. It is not a thumbprint and is of use only in the cashless system. The scanned points are transformed into a number using a hardware‐based algorithm. The hardware also applies 256 bit AES encryption to the data, so it is not possible to reconstruct biometric information from the code stored in the computer.

How does a Biometric System work?

The information of a student or staff member, who has been biometrically registered, is stored on a secure computer server within the school, which only we and our provider, Nationwide Retail Systems Ltd, can access.  Once an account is credited the student or staff member places their finger/thumb on the EPOS Terminal, which looks up their account details and allows them to purchase items.

How does my child register on the Biometric System?

Students are registered when on their first day at school. Your child will attend a session in High Options at a requested time and they will be required to place their finger/thumb on a biometric sensor twice to obtain a matching template, which only takes a few seconds. If you have chosen to ‘opt out’ of this procedure, your child will be presented with a 4 digit PIN Code at this time instead.

What methods of payment can be used to credit an account?

Any amount can be credited to an account by way of any of the following methods:

  1. On‐Line Payments: We have introduced On‐Line Payments in partnership with the Cashless Catering System. To make a payment on line please go to to make an electronic payment.  You will receive your ParentPay details in the post before the Year 6 parents’ meeting with tutors in July.
  2. PayPoint: If you do not wish to make card payments online you can top up your child’s account at local PayPoint stores. Payments via PayPoint will take up to 48 hours to be credited to the appropriate account. You can find your local stores by visiting the website below.  (or short version: ). In order to use this system you will need a bar-coded letter which is personalised to each child: please contact us to request this.
  3. Cash at the revaluation machine – A “revaluation” or cash-loading machine is sited within High Options. This can be used to top up accounts by the student placing their finger/thumb on the sensor or by entering their 4 digit PIN Code followed by inserting the accepted tender: anything from £20 notes to 5p coins.  We discourage students from using this machine because we would rather they did not carry cash to school.  By using the online payment method you can monitor their balance, see how much they spend and what they buy, and know that they are not spending their dinner money on sweets or other items on the way to school.

How can I check the credit on an account?

This can be done by students at the cash-loading machine in High Options, but queues tend to build up at lunchtime. The best way to check balances is at, where you can also set up a low balance reminder so that your child never runs out of dinner money.

Can I change the daily ‘spend limit’?

Yes – The daily ‘spend limit’ has a default of £7.50 but this may be changed by written request to the Catering Supervisor at High Options, or by contacting Student Services.

What happens if my child’s account is not in credit?

Between 12.45pm and 1.15pm (lunchtime) students should see Mr Bowden who will be on duty on ‘the quad’ between Printworks and High Options.  He has cash to lend to students who don’t have enough for lunch. If Mr Bowden is not on duty then one of the Heads of House or Student Managers in High Options will have the money instead – please tell your child to ask, there is no need for anyone to go hungry!

Why can’t I just go overdrawn on my account?

We want to be aware when people need to borrow money rather than letting it happen automatically.  Also we would prefer that the school lends you money rather than our catering contractors, and finally we also want our Student Services staff to be able to have a chat with you so that they can check things are OK.

Although I have money in my account, the till will not let me buy anything – what has gone wrong?

This is probably because your parents have asked for a daily limit to be put on your account.  Although it is a daily limit the day runs from about 1.30pm on one day to the same time the next day.  This means that if you spend £1 at 3 o’clock on Monday afternoon, you are using your Tuesday allowance and will have £1 less to spend on Tuesday.  If this means you haven’t been able to get any lunch, students should talk to one of the Heads of House or Student Managers in High Options and they will try to help.

I don’t know how much money I’ve spent or how much I have got left

The High Options staff have been asked to tell students at the till what they have spent and to warn them if your balance is running low, but if they forget it’s OK for students to say “please can you tell me what I’ve spent and what I have left?”.  Students can also use the “revaluation machine” to check their account balance, but the best way is to go online and check on your Parentpay account.  If parents don’t have the details for this, they can email

My child’s thumb scan doesn’t work on the revaluation machine, or the tills

We can try re-scanning students’ thumbs and if this doesn’t work we can give them a pin code instead.  Students should talk to Mrs Birch or Mrs Simoen (General Office) or ask at Student Services Reception.

How can I get an alert message to avoid running out of money in my account?

In the ParentPay website go to “View Communications” on the left and then click on “Change alert settings” (blue button, top right) and set up an e-mail or SMS text alert for when your account balance falls below a certain amount.

I have topped up my account but there’s still no money showing there when my child goes to the till – what has happened?

Although your balance may be credited in the parentpay website, it doesn’t come through immediately to the till system.  If there’s a problem, ask Mr Bowden and he will lend you cash to tide you over.  Your parents can check that their payment has gone through Parentpay successfully, and if there’s a problem they can email school to let us know.

How much is the free school meal allowance?

The free meal allowance is £2.35 per day.

Where has all my child’s Free School Meal allowance gone?

Although it’s a daily limit the day runs from about 1.30pm on one day to the same time the next day.  This means that if you spend £1 at 3 o’clock on Monday afternoon, you are using your Tuesday allowance and will have £1 less to spend on Tuesday.  Please be careful not to spend too much after school! If this means you haven’t been able to get any lunch, please talk to one of the Heads of House or Student Managers in High Options and they will try to help.

How do ‘free meal’ entitlements work?

Students with free meal entitlements remain anonymous at all times as all account types are accessed in the exact same manner regardless as to whether paid for or not. Any money not spent from the daily free meal allocation will not be carried over to the next day.

Can anyone else use my child’s account?

Due to the extensive security on biometric templates no-one will be able to access your child’s account if thumbprint scanning is used. As a secondary precaution a photo image is allocated to each student. If your child is using a 4 digit PIN Code, which someone obtains and attempts to use, the photograph shown on the EPOS Terminal should alert the operator and prevent a fraudulent sale taking place.  Occasionally we get a query from a parent to ask why two lunches have been taken on the same day and this is almost always because students have helped out a friend by buying their lunch for them: this is not something we encourage as we would rather lend students money ourselves.

Can I dictate my child’s dietary requirements?

The system will allow you to register any items that your child is not allowed due to dietary needs or religious beliefs. Any such items must be confirmed in writing by the parent/guardian to the Catering Supervisor in High Options

Data protection information relating to the new till system:

Nationwide Retail Systems Ltd (NRS) is accredited with ISO27001 – Information Security Management System and is committed to ensuring that privacy is protected. Data will only be used in accordance with this privacy statement. NRS is registered as a data processor under the Data Protection Act (DPA) and operate at all times under the DPA Guidelines. Schools’ data will remain their responsibility and they remain fully in control of accessing, managing and updating all student data within the system. Schools and the local authority are operating as Data Controllers under the DPA. All NRS Staff that may have administrator access to schools data for support purposes are Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checked. Information collected to implement a Cashless Catering system is listed here:• Admissions Number (“G number”) • Student’s name • Tutor group • Whether they are entitled to free school meals • Gender • Date of Birth • School Year • UPN* • Photograph** *Unique Pupil Number: a UPN is a number that identifies each learner in England uniquely ** The photograph is provided so that an image of the student can be shown to the till operator to prevent fraud: this is particularly important for those who have opted out of using thumb-prints Student information is held on a school server dedicated to the cashless catering system.

When can I log in to my ParentPay account?

Once you have received your activation letter from school with your activation login details you’ll be able to activate your account and start making payments. This is sent out prior to the Year 6 parents’ meeting form tutors in July.

Which cards can I use on ParentPay?

ParentPay accepts MasterCard and Visa credit cards, and Maestro, Switch, Delta, Electron, Solo and Visa debit cards.

Is it safe to make payments on the internet?

Yes. ParentPay uses leading technology to process your card transactions securely. All communication with the bank is encrypted and neither ParentPay nor the school have access to your card details. The process is similar to a purchase on Amazon or a groceries order from

How can I check that it is secure?

Standard website addresses begin with http; the address for a secure site will always begin with https. You will also see a padlock at the bottom/top right of the screen on our login page and after you have logged into your account; never enter your card details or personal data on any web page whose address does not start https.

What personal information does ParentPay hold?

ParentPay holds a very limited amount of information about you and your child solely for the purpose of administering your account; however ParentPay does not use your personal information other than for supporting the school. We do not share or give information to any other organisations. We operate under strict guidelines set out by the Data Protection Act 1998. ParentPay will NEVER contact you by phone, email or mail and ask you to divulge confidential information like passwords or card numbers. If you are ever contacted by someone claiming to be from ParentPay, please contact us immediately on 0845 257 5540.

I don’t have a home PC so how can I use ParentPay?

The ParentPay website will work on smartphones, though it is not currently optimised for small screens.  Computers are available in the local library and we can provide access to a computer at school on request.   If this is presenting a problem for you, please get in touch with Mr Haigh or Mr Astley at school who will investigate