Direct Debits and payment plans have become the norm for managing the vast majority of outgoing bills and payments in the UK. Energy bills, phone contracts, water bills, broadband contracts, and more, are all collected by Direct Debit as standard.  

However, are schools reaping the benefits of Direct Debits and school fee plans to manage parent’s accounts? Historically, invoicing and bank transfer have been a popular method of collection for fee-paying schools – but this method brings challenges.  

Bank transfer relies entirely on your community of parent’s paying on time, as well as timely invoicing and communication. For many bursars, chasing arrears is an unnecessarily time-consuming task. Automation makes manual tasks much simpler across your school, and the same can be said of Direct Debits in the school finance department. 

Consider offering your parents a more flexible option for managing school payments and the costs associated with their child’s education, while also enjoying the structure and stability of Direct Debits. 

Increasing inflation and cost of living 

It’s no secret that costs are increasing for everyone. Inflation and the economy continue to fluctuate and, whether as a business or individual, we’re all feeling the pinch. Studies show that the cost of sending your child to a fee-paying school has consistently increased in recent years, with the leaving class of 2023 experiencing an increase of 1.4 times the rate of inflation. While a child’s education is a priority for parents, it’s not always easy to manage increasing costs of living while saving income for school fees.  

However, as a business, it’s also important to have a steady and consistent stream of income in order to effectively manage the school’s finances. The costs associated with operating a school have also increased, which has directly impacted the costs to parents outlined above. The school finance department needs to feel confident in their budget and that incoming school fee payments meet expectations.  

School fee plan

A school fee plan can help to manage both parent’s and your bursars’ financial planning. By breaking down yearly or termly fees into more manageable payments, you can help your community of parents to better budget for upcoming fees. These payments could align with their existing outgoings, simplifying payment management.  

This also results in better consistency for your bursars, who can better manage and forecast the school’s finances as costs continue to grow. 

Plans to suit your school and your parents 

While consistency in payments is important, it’s also important to be as flexible as possible in your school fee plan offering. Direct Debits enable you to build plans that suit both your school and your parents.  

Consider working with your community of existing parents to understand what timeframes and plans are preferable to them. For complete flexibility, you may wish to offer payment plans on a case-by-case basis – but this will depend on what suits your school.  

Termly invoices may be more common in the industry, but a monthly Direct Debit might better suit your parent’s usual financial planning.  

Whatever your preferred approach, Direct Debits can fit to any schedule once set in place. If a payment in a plan is missed, it’s as simple as re-submitting for that Direct Debit after a conversation with the parent. Ultimately, this is a more efficient process for your school and ensures your income expectations are more easily met. It’s also more hassle-free for your parents as they look to balance their outgoings and their child’s school fees. 

Meet your growth goals 

By offering a simpler payment option for both parents and your finance department, your school can more effectively meet its financial goals. The easier it is for your parents to pay, the more likely they are to make those payments on time. Reducing the need to chase arrears means that your budget remains as forecasted and lessens time-consuming admin for your teams.  

School fee plan

An increase in available budget, and an improvement in the consistency of those funds, enables your teams to focus on spending to meet your school’s goals. Worry less about whether fee payments have been made, and more about where you need to allocate budget in order to boost school and student performance.  

Ultimately, this better serves both your leadership teams and your students, who benefit from a school that can invest in its facilities and improvement over time. 

Protect your school and its parent’s data 

As mentioned, one of the more popular ways for parents and schools to manage fee payments is via invoicing and bank transfer. It’s flexible since the amount transferred can be amended each time, and enables the parents to have complete autonomy.  

However, this method also puts parents at risk of one of the most common cyber scams impacting today’s schools.  

Cyber criminals attempt to replicate school invoice emails in order to gather secure data from the victims. This is why it is vital to educate your community on the indicators of cyber scams and what they can do to mitigate risk to themselves and their data.  

While it’s still an important practice to ensure parents are protected, setting up school fee plans via Direct Debit can help to reduce this risk even further. With a Direct Debit plan in place, parents can be safe in the knowledge that their payments are taken care of. If they are unsure, they can simply check for the outgoing payment via their online banking.  

School fee plan

By reducing this uncertainty and adding that extra layer of safety, they are less likely to interact with emails requesting payment or sharing payment details. 

Additionally, Direct Debits can work in tandem with your parent portal. By implementing a portal that enables parents to access their invoices, your school can remove the need to contact parents about their fees via email altogether. The iSAMS Parent Portal was created to enhance parent-school communication and empower parents to self-serve. Contact us to request a demo.

iSAMS solutions for seamless financial management 

The efficient operation of your school finance department is key to your school’s performance and ability to forecast and meet its growth goals. Your bursars need software that supports them in all areas of their role, from incoming payment and budget management to invoice generation and financial analytics. 

Our suite of accounting software, including the Fee Billing module and iFinance, ensures that your department can maximise their efficiency. These solutions work in tandem with our upcoming Direct Debits solution: Auto Debits.  

Watch a demo of our bespoke accounting solution for Independent schools below. If you’d like to learn more and register your interest in Auto Debits, you can do so here.