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Local API - Dinner Money

Training Requirement

Dinner Money is a relatively complex area and it is essential that TIs undergo training in the concepts and risk before offering dinner money integration.

Dinner Money Details


Dinner Money (DM) is a separately licensed module aimed at primary schools. 

Partners may use dinner money APIs in schools without a requirement for the school to be licensed. If this is the case then the partner system would have to implement all of the product features required because the SIMS Interface will not show any of the additional/modified DM screens.

This document restricts the scope of guidance to the subset of functionality envisaged by the author as relevant to a provider of an external payment system. 


Typically in primary schools, pupils are offered meals at fixed menu prices, this may vary with age in some schools.  Typically VAT is not payable on pupil meals.  Staff may also take meals which are usually subject to VAT.

Pupils are usually required to pay for meals in advance, historically the pupil would bring in cash or a cheque on Monday morning, the tutor would collect the money and pass it to the school office to bank.

At lunch time, the pupil will take their meal and the canteen staff will record who has had a meal.  Usually pupils will not be refused a meal regardless of payment status.  Some students are entitled for Free School Meals (FSM).

Dinner Money Concepts

Recording the Meal Taken

This is an internal process which is kicked off when a user in SIMS enters the dinner money menu items.  If the clock is post meal sittings, it will make the meal intention in to meals taken.  This process can pop a dialog in some circumstances and hence is not available to TIs to initiate. 

Opening Balances

DM supports the concept of an opening balance for staff and pupils.  This defaults to zero.

Meal Definition 

Dinner Money supports the concepts of meal definitions for both pupils, staff and others.

Meal definitions have a set of charge rates for a period of time.  Ergo the charge for a school meal may be different each term if required.

Meal Type

A meal type can be restricted to year groups. 

There may be more than one chargeable meal type available to students.

It may be reasonable to charge a pupil for a missed meal, whilst defaults may be provided, additional or replacement codes may be created.

Staff Meal Codes

Are also available

Ad hoc Meals

When visitors attend a school,  a meal may be provided and charged at an appropriate rate.

Some visitors may be given a complementary meal at the school.  The school would then pay the caterer for these meals.

Other Sales Definitions

It is also possible to record sales of other items such as fruit, drinks and sandwiches.

These work the same as the staff meal definitions above.

Universal Infant Free School Meals


Following the announcement by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister of universal free school meals (UFSM) for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils, partners may like to consider the impact of these changes on their products.

Changes in SIMS Dinner Money

We anticipate the need for a new meal type to be added to SIMS Dinner Money for UFSM simply with a zero charge.   This can be done using the existing application; the only discussion point within SIMS is whether to put one in for customers, whilst this seems simple enough it does run the risk of conflicting with an existing entry created by the school for the same code.

Changes to Agora

No changes are required to support UFSM.

Guidance for SIMS Users

SIMS Users are advised that a student’s eligibility for UFSM should not be confused with or recorded as an entitlement to Free School Meals.  Students taking UFSM may have FSM eligibility and if this is the case then FSM eligibility should be recorded in SIMS independently of information about UFSM.

Free School Meals and Pupil Premium

ESS SIMS remains concerned about whether parents will take the trouble to apply for free school meals when their children are eligible for UFSM.  The application is intrusive into family situations and commits the parent to keeping the local authority updated when circumstances change. Whilst parents with older children have a financial incentive to apply for FSM, there is a significant likelihood that parents that will not directly benefit from FSM will not bother to apply because there is no direct benefit to them.

School funding may be affected when parents do not make a claim for FSM (not UFSM) because a FSM entitlement is also an entitlement for the school to receive pupil premium payments.  The lack of a claim from a parent would mean that the school would likely lose £600 per year

Impact on Partners

The Partner team does not believe that the changes will have any significant impact on partners as a result of the announcement in so far as SIMS data is concerned.  It is however likely to impact upon Cashless Caterers, On Line Payment Providers and perhaps Alternative Financial Products.

It is however beyond our remit to advise as to how these products might be affected, however it is prudent to ask the question and in so doing assist our partners.


UFSM Announcement:   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24132416

Pupil Premium:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-19649306