Business Continuity

When and how should this guidance be used?

Schools are now very dependent on technology; it has certainly streamlined many processes that were once very time-consuming. When everything functions as it should these systems are invisible but if anything fails the impact can appear severe to the user.

In the event of a systems failure it is essential to have an “emergency plan” – sometimes known as a Business Continuity Plan.

In this document we have detailed guidance on what to do in the most common scenarios that could impact users of the ParentPay system. These steps are offered as guidance only and may be adapted as required to suit your current processes.

Please Note: This document is not intended to be, or to replace, the schools’ Business Continuity Plan or other guidance provided by your Local Authority. This document is to provide additional assistance and can be used to input into, or update, the schools’ own broader Business Continuity Plan.*

No internet connection

Actions to prepare for this event:

  1. Locate a device that is connected to the internet by other means, for example through mobile phone networks. This could be a smart phone, iPad or similar where possible.
  2. Identify someone off-site that does not use the same internet connection as the school.
  3. Know where manual registers can be accessed.
  4. Write down the ParentPay support number (02476 994820) and keep it safe.

Actions to carry out if failure occurs:

  1. Print out manual registers.
  2. If internet access via other means is possible put a message on your ParentPay home page.
  3. If internet access via other means is possible carry out a message run in Communications to inform parents, either via email or text message.
  4. Contact the ParentPay Support Team for assistance with any of the above should you need it.

Actions after service is restored:

  1. Update the ParentPay home page to provide an explanation for the outage via Settings > Site Data.
  2. Send a message to parents via Communications to tell them the service has been restored.
  3. If you do not have a Cashless Till system, enter the meal attendance via Attendance, meals and events > Attendance.

Things you do not need to worry about

  1. Possible missing payments – this is unlikely to happen as there is a continuous reconciliation process between ParentPay and the payment gateway. Any missing payments will be picked up during this process.
  2. PayPoint payments will proceed as normal and will import as soon as the service is restored.
  3. Cashless Till systems will re-synchronise correctly once the service is restored. Do not attempt to do manual adjustments via the till, or the ParentPay system, as this could result in duplicated data.
Payments not accepted via the ParentPay website If there are any known issues with payments being processed via ParentPay you will be notified promptly and a warning notice will be issued both on the parent payment page, and on the manager home page. The complete payment processing service being unavailable, even for a short period of time, is very rare. If payment processing problems are widespread and parents cannot make payments it is important that you ensure pupils can take a meal. A balance must be maintained between pupils that are genuinely affected by the issue and those that may take advantage of the situation.

Actions to prepare for this event

  1. Prepare a letter or email template explaining to parents that credit has been given to allow the child to have meals. Inform parents that they will be expected to pay for this as soon as the issue is resolved, if they haven’t already made alternative payment arrangements.

Actions to carry out if failure occurs

  1. In primary schools, where there are fixed meal prices, pupils should be allowed to go into debt while the issue is being resolved.
  2. In secondary schools, allow students to take the main dish of the day – which is usually the cost of a free school meal.
  3. If required distribute letters/emails recovering the debt via Communications.
  4. Accept cash payments. The cash can then be paid by PayPoint (using a barcoded letter against a visitor account on ParentPay) and credited to the correct pupils’ accounts using the Other Adjustment > Credit/Debit.

Actions after service restored

  1. Run a debt report and recover any outstanding money as soon as possible.
  2. Update the ParentPay home page to provide an explanation for the outage via Settings > Site Data.
  3. Send an email or text message to parents via Communications to tell them the service has been restored.
ParentPay website is unavailable ParentPay Ltd will do everything possible to ensure our website is available at all times. However, as with any technology solution, our website has to be taken offline occasionally. Scheduled updates and upgrades are performed out of normal office hours and you will always be informed in advance. Taking the service offline in an emergency is very rare indeed, but can happen out of necessity. We will always keep you informed via email and will display a warning message on your manager home screen. We will ensure project leaders in local authorities are also kept updated.

 

Actions to prepare for this event

  1. Appoint someone in school to be the Continuity Co-ordinator in the event of the ParentPay website not being available.
  2. Ensure a suitable email address that is accessed regularly, is located in the field Contact email situated in Settings > Site data. We will use this email address to keep you informed.
  3. Your local authority project team will give you contact details to get further information, please contact them in the first instance.
  4. Make sure you know where you can print out class lists in the event that you have to do a manual meal register – perhaps from your MIS system.
  5. Decide who will do the manual registers.
  6. Ensure the above processes are kept up-to-date.
  7. Write down the ParentPay support number 02476 994820. If the website is unavailable the phone lines will be very busy. If this should happen, a recorded message upon calling our support line will explain the situation and resolution times.

Actions to carry out if failure occurs

  1. Print out and complete manual registers.
  2. Ensure the Continuity Co-ordinator stores the information safely until it can be manually inputted onto your ParentPay site – Note: if you have a Cashless Till system, this will automatically synchronise with ParentPay once the service is restored.

Actions after service restored

  1. Update the ParentPay home page to explain the outage via Settings > Site data > Public description.
  2. You may wish to send a message to payers via Communications to let them know the service is restored.
  3. Enter meal attendance in ParentPay via Attendance, meals and events > Attendance – Note: if you have a Cashless Till system, this will automatically synchronise with ParentPay once the service is restored.

Things you do not need to worry about

  1. Possible missing payments – this is unlikely to happen as there is a continuous reconciliation process between ParentPay and the payment gateway. Any missing payments will be picked up in this process.
  2. PayPoint payments, these will proceed as normal and will import as soon as the service is restored.
  3. Cashless Till systems will re-synchronise correctly once the service is restored. Do not attempt to do manual adjustments via the till, or the ParentPay system, as this could result in duplicated data.
Schools with Cashless Tills – additional checks Dependent on your cashless provider, there may be different processes and guidance available from them to assist you when you are experiencing difficulties. Please refer to their guidance in the first instance as they may be specific to the equipment in your school. Possible failures:
  • Payments not reporting to the till
  • Pupil data not updating to the till
  • Balances not reporting back to ParentPay

Actions to carry out if failure occurs:

You should always check the following before reporting the issue to ParentPay or your Cashless Till provider:

  1. Is the till plugged in, connected to the internet/server? Data will not transfer if the PC/server connected to the till system is not switched on and connected to the internet.
  2. Check the till to ensure there is a network connection; if there isn’t you should contact the till supplier.
  3. Check the “Till queue” area of your ParentPay homepage to see if there are any records left to synchronise.
  4. If there are any error messages showing, make a note of these and call the Cashless till provider with as much relevant information as possible.

NB: Your Cashless Till will still operate without internet connection.
Process meals taken as normal, once internet connection has been resumed, the information will then be sent back to ParentPay to update the account information.

Pupil data not updating from your Management Information System to ParentPay If you do not have up-to-date pupil data on ParentPay, please check the following Actions to carry out if failure occurs – SIMS schools or schools that use a manual import via MIS Sync:
  1. Check that you have the most up-to-date version of MIS:Sync (information is available via Help in your ParentPay manager login).
  2. Check that the manager account being used to attempt the upload has Overall access rights via Settings > Manage Users.
  3. If you are a SIMS school log into MIS:Sync and check you are still connected via Tools > Settings. If your SIMS login details have changed you will need to update them here.
  4. Carry out a “manual update” to see if the fault has been rectified and to identify if the pupil data is being extracted correctly. If this is successful attempt the “auto update” to upload the data.
  5. Extract the pupil file from SIMS, save as an .xml file and upload it directly to ParentPay via People > Uploads > Manual Upload.
  6. Extract the data file and send it safely to ParentPay via the secure file share area within Communication > Files. In the interest of data protection we would request that schools do not to send pupil data via email. Send an email to support@parentpay.com to let our team know the data file has been uploaded to your ParentPay site and provide us with the details of any error messages you are receiving. The support team will be able to assess the data and identify why your pupil data upload is failing.

Actions to carry out if failure occurs – schools that use an automated import to their ParentPay site:

  1. Check that any relevant usernames or passwords have not expired.
  2. Check that the manager account being used to attempt the upload has Overall access rights via Settings > Manage Users.
  3. Extract the pupil file from your MIS system, save as an .xml file and upload it directly to ParentPay via People > Uploads > Manual Upload.
  4. Extract the data file and send it safely to ParentPay via the secure file share area within Communication > Files. In the interest of data protection we would request that schools do not to send pupil data via email. Send an email to support@parentpay.com to let our team know the data file has been uploaded to your ParentPay site and provide us with the details of any error messages you are receiving. The support team will be able to assess the data and identify why your pupil data upload is failing.

*Disclaimer: ParentPay does not accept responsibility for omissions and errors in this document, particularly in regards to third party supplier systems interfacing with ParentPay. This document should be used as guidance only to feed into a schools’ overall Business Continuity Plan.