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St Benedict's Catholic School

St Benedict's
Catholic School

School Meals

What is a Cashless System?

A cashless system is used for the payment of school meals, where no cash is taken at the point of sale. Each student and member of staff using the system will be allocated an account, much like a bank account. This information is held on a secure server and stores details of individual cash balances, including cash spent and received, where money has been spent, on what food and the exact date and time the money was spent.

How are students and staff recognised by the system?

Students and staff can be recognised using a number of identification technologies, PIN and biometric. For the biometric solution, prior to the system going live, all individuals intending to use the system will have their finger scanned. This finger scan will be converted into a number and stored on the system against that individual. Once the finger scan has been taken it is automatically converted to numeric form. No register of fingerprints is kept and it is impossible to reconstitute a fingerprint from the numeric reference. (See the section Biometric Registration for further details).

Non Biometric Students

For individuals not wishing to use the biometric aspect of the system, a PIN number will be allocated.

How is the Biometric Recognition System used to obtain a meal?

At the till point is a dermal scanner. When the student wishes to pay for the meal they simply place their thumb/finger on the scanner and this will bring up that individual's account. A display will show the terminal operator the account holder's photo, name, tutor group and current cash balance held within the system. The selected food items will be entered into the system from the touch screen terminal while the product values and the total balance will show on the display. For individuals using a PIN, the number will be given to the terminal operator and the account will be brought up.

How is the money entered into the system?

  • Through the child's account on Parent Pay.
  • By Cash (notes/coins) into the Revaluation Unit located in Houghton Hall

How does the Revaluation Unit work?

Firstly the student places their thumb/finger on the scanner mounted on the Revaluation Unit. The system will identify the individual and display their name and current cash balance held within the system. For individuals using PIN numbers, simply enter your PIN on the PIN pad and press enter, the system will identify the individual and display their name and current cash balance held within the system.

The second stage: insert coins/notes are into the slot and each incremental cash balance will show on the display. Simply press the green lit button to complete the transaction.

How can you check your current balance held on the system?

  • By using the Revaluation Unit, simply access your account by placing your thumb/finger on the scanner or by entering your PIN; there is no need to deposit any money. Your details will show on screen; press the green button when finished.
  • At home by logging onto your child's parent pay account you can there see an up to date balance as well as a history of their expenditure.

If we pay for a set number of school meals, can it be spent in one day?

No, a global limit will be set up for all students and no purchases above that limit can be made. On request the school will set up individual spending limits for pupils.

How does the system deal with students entitled to Free Meal Benefit

The system works exactly the same for all students whether they pay or have a free school meal entitlement. The amount allocated for the free school meal will be entered into the system by the software daily and will only be accessible at dinner break.

The system will then allow on a daily basis the required cash amount for each individual student to be allotted to their current cash balance. However, any under spend or missed dinner will be identified by the system and will not be added to the next day's balance.

The student can also add extra cash on to his or her balance in the system by either method outlined above and so enable a greater daily spend on the school dinner than allocated by their free school meal allowance. As this allowance can only be spent on a school dinner, extra cash added to the system can also be used for breakfast or break time snacks.

All students in receipt of this benefit will retain complete anonymity.

How will 'Healthy Eating' be encouraged?

After the new system has been operating for a while we hope to further enhance the schools' Healthy Eating policy. When the food is selected and sold through the system it will also register points for a balanced, healthy and nutritious school dinner.

What is meant by dietary control?

The system has the ability to bar a specific product or group of products from being sold to an individual throughout the day or at specific periods. Where a student has a food allergy or is diabetic the sale of these products can be barred to that individual so it is impossible for that student to purchase these products through the system. This is accompanied by an on screen warning advising the till operator.

Will we be able to have any information on how the system is being used?

Reports can be obtained from the system, giving comprehensive information on all aspects of use for each individual students as well as each day's service. These reports can be for a specific day or between any two dates you wish; they will be dated and timed to the minute and can be obtained from the system administrator. Some of the reports available are:

  • To show every item of food sold to that account and the cost of each serving
  • To show all individual payments made directly to the school by cash and manually entered onto the system
  • Each payment made at the Revaluation Unit by the student including the number of individual coins and their denomination
  • Every transaction including all sales and credits itemised

Data Handling

Certain data will be held on the system to enable accurate operation. This will include your child's name, tutor group, photo, account balance and meal entitlement. This data will be handled under the guidelines of the Data Protection Act and only used by parties directly associated with the school.

Access to this information is controlled strictly by the school only.

Biometric Registration

Each individual's thumb and finger prints are unique. The Biometric cashless system does not store an image of the fingerprint but a scanning template creates a unique number/algorithm which is then stored and used to identify a student's account.

Each child will have that unique number stored on a central server. This is done by scanning the finger or thumb with a non-evasive electronic scanner, which passes light over the finger or thumb. The same scanner will be installed in the Revaluation Unit where the students deposit coins/notes and at the tills where they obtain their food service.

A print will be stored numerically, as a set of between 20 and 50 reference points, unique to the individual's print. Each reference point comprises of three numbers which are the X and Y co­ ordinates and an angle of curve. The system does not store the image of the finger/thumb scanned. The stored co-ordinates are only of use in matching part of the individual's print and cannot be used for the purpose of reconstructing a print.

The numbers will be held in a secure SQL database on the server. Access to this database is given only by the school and then only to those who are required to administer the system.

Technical Specification

The individual templates are encrypted using a 256 bit AES key that is built into the scanner's hardware. Also the persisted file is encrypted using a different 256 bit AES key built into the matching algorithm supplied by Secugen and generated by a unique license purchased for each site. This is more secure than the ANSI! and IOS standards that government departments use as the Secugen Template is encrypted and the ANSII and IOS standards are not. The template data is useless and cannot be interpreted back into a usable fingerprint image. If this was not the case then there would be no world standards and performance measures for such technologies. The data is stored in an array in the RAM of the Biometric Controller and is persisted onto the hard drive of the Bio Controller to be restored in the event of a reboot.

Below is an example of a template code for an individual finger:

OX417741414142514141414445415141414151415341414D415A4141414141414174774541414C7 14777346C5869656D6C5749454948764A6B42466D6837616C4E764D704F517874517A706A4A30


The solution is secure because the matching can only be done by the individual's consent as the finger has to be presented to the device for matching. We do not hold images of fingerprints within our system.

The technology provided for this method of identification meets with BECTA guidelines and also allows students the option to opt out of the scheme and use a PIN number instead.

Also under the Data Protection Act the school or caterer (the originator of the data) cannot allow access to this data by anyone for any other means other than for the purpose the data was collected and that is to identify an individual within the solution supplied. Any biometric data that belongs to an individual that leaves the school is purged which also is in line with the BECTA guidelines.

Free School Meals