As a parent myself with children at different schools, I can often be found on a Sunday evening desperately hunting for the correct change for school meals or trying to track down my cheque book to pay for a school trip – not very convenient or efficient for me or the schools. Especially these days when we can choose to pay for almost everything else, such as bills and shopping, online whenever we need to.
Introducing SIMS Agora...
One of the highlights of this year’s Bett show is the launch of SIMS Agora, our new online payments solution. Taking the word ‘Agora’ from the Latin and ancient Greek meaning for ‘marketplace’, the system offers a cost-efficient, secure and easy way for schools to collect payments from parents and sell school items online. This might include school meals, trips, uniforms and more. And it’s all securely integrated with the school’s SIMS system.
Before the official launch at Bett, here's a peek of the Agora home page:
Simple, secure online payments
Being able to pay for school items online by debit or credit card is a much more convenient way for your school to receive payments from parents – and you can have the added peace of mind that they’ll be processed securely and made directly to your school. SIMS Agora is a Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) Level certified service. It also uses the highest levels of card security and fraud protection measures too!
Fully integrated into SIMS, you have instant access to the names of an entire class or group of pupils so payments can be assigned easily. It also immediately reflects any changes made in SIMS such as parental status, ensuring that all information held is always up to date.
We’ve designed Agora to be as user-friendly as possible for schools and parents alike. We've included some really useful features to help make the complex payment collection process as simple as possible. Using Agora, parents can control their own login details using their own Microsoft account, which means not having to remember different usernames and passwords to access online services. And you can wave goodbye to the burden of processing parent payments manually and benefit from improved security and safeguarding as children will not need to carry cash into school. Parents can log in and pay for clubs and activities, for example.
Here's what the clubs and activities screen looks like:
Do you use SIMS Dinner Money?
If your school uses SIMS Dinner Money, SIMS Agora integrates automatically with it. Parents can see their child’s school meal balance and meal options taken, plus make a payment whenever they wish to. All payments from Agora are automatically updated in the school’s SIMS Dinner Money system – freeing up hours each week for the school office.
Feedback on Agora
We tested Agora with a group of school business managers and finance administrators. What really impressed them was the ability to easily add bank accounts to the system themselves. These are auto-verified and associated with individual products, services or items as needed, so monies can be paid directly into the relevant account. For example, school meals paid into one designated account, while uniforms and trips go into another.
Parents will see a similar screen to the below when paying for school trips.
So when my children’s schools start using SIMS Agora, the usual Sunday evening last minute scramble for the right dinner money change will thankfully become a thing of the past. Plus, it’s good to know that the schools will benefit from faster, more efficient payments and greater control that SIMS Agora can provide.
See the official launch at Bett
If you’re visiting Bett, make sure you pay us a visit on stand B250. We’ve got live Agora presentations taking place every day, so check out our programme on our dedicated Bett pages for times.
In the meantime, you can find out more about SIMS Agora here.