I’ve spent two months calling Local Authorities. I offered their education Leaders an initial proposition:
- Increase Free School Meals take up in their catchment area
- Help local schools increase their Pupil Premium
- Empower parents to apply directly
- Save money in the process.
We have a product, called Online Free School Meals (OFSM), which does all of this out of the box. So this was my pitch:
“OFSM: FOOD FOR CHILDREN. MONEY FOR SCHOOLS
The National Food Strategy appears set to double the reach of Free School Meals (FSM). At the same time, the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic threatens a huge increase in their uptake.
Yet according to a range of statistics some 10% of children eligible to claim FSM fail to do so. This in turn means that schools in your area are missing out on £millions in pupil premium.
Online Free School Meals (OFSM) is an instant eligibility checking system linked directly to the DfE’s ECS service. It is currently used by thousands of schools in over a hundred local authorities. It is easy to use and is known to improve FSM uptake. OFSM’s principal features are as follows:
- Online application form provides parents, carers and schools with instant results while reducing the burden of re-keying paper forms.
- Failed applications are regularly checked to detect changes in status
- Web-based system: ready to go with no technical overheads or associated costs
- Comprehensive back-office dashboard provides all current data to administrators
- It’s safe and secure: ISO27001 certified and GDPR compliant.”
I duly called said Leaders. Some wouldn’t take my call, some were simply not interested, some (a few) referred me to the relevant manager. I called them. Some wouldn’t take my call, some were not interested, some said they’d look into it and get back to me. They didn’t, so I got back to them. They hadn’t looked into it. When challenged (ever so politely), they brought down the shutters.
My point is that I was making a proposition that flat-out benefits everyone: more kids get food; their schools get more money; we make some money; LAs save some money (re-keying thousands of forms for bulk upload then reporting back is a full time job, and really – in this day and age?)
I even did the calculations for them based on real world figures (numbers eligible minus numbers eligible but not claiming) to show, for example, that in the North East over 9000 kids aren’t getting their due, to the tune of £11,000,000 in lost pupil premium. A lose/lose situation by any measure.
But inertia and lack of curiosity prevail.