Schools' fury as Edenred FSM voucher firm wins gong

Decision to commend Edenred for Covid response met with scorn and derision from school business managers, teachers and heads
12th November 2020, 12:52pm

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Schools' fury as Edenred FSM voucher firm wins gong

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/schools-fury-edenred-fsm-voucher-firm-wins-gong
School Meals

School business managers are "incensed" after the company behind the "broken" free school meals voucher scheme was presented with an award for its Covid response.

Edenred UK, which ran the £234 million free school meals voucher scheme during the Covid crisis, was awarded "Best Covid Response Initiative", along with partner Tillo, by the Gift Card & Voucher Association (GCVA). The company also won "Best Lockdown Team".

School business managers, teachers and heads have lashed out at the decision, arguing Edenred's voucher scheme was an "absolute disaster".


Coronavirus: Anger at 'broken' meals voucher scheme

Delays: Frustration over free meal vouchers grows

Background: Vouchers for FSM pupils backed by DfE


The free school meals voucher scheme, launched on 31 March, was said to be riddled with issues from the outset.

Just one week in, headteachers and school business managers said they were spending hours on the phone or online trying to obtain vouchers.

One school said it ran up a mobile phone bill of £89 trying to get through to Edenred on its premium rate number.

The following week school business managers reported ongoing issues with the website, after it was taken offline over the bank holiday weekend. One said they had to signpost parents to local food banks as an alternative source of help.

School business manager Hilary Goldsmith said in April: "The scheme has been rushed out. Not enough thought has been given to how the system will cope with a massive amount of use. It's broken every step of the way."

And in May, MPs on the Commons Education Select Committee wrote to the Department for Education (DfE) to urge answers on what was being done to resolve "delays and issues" with the scheme.

The decision to commend Edenred for its Covid response was met with scorn and derision from school business managers, teachers and heads on social media.

Responding to the announcement from the GCVA on Twitter, one school business manager said: "You are having a laugh that Edenred won anything. The whole FSM vouchers thing was an absolute disaster including their website and customer service. What on earth is your award criteria based on? Is it for p*****g off the most amount of people?"

Did you ask any of the end users of the Edenred system how they rated their FSM system? I suspect not because if you had, there would be no way on earth that they would have won this award. Maybe in future, do background research on nominees' product before deciding the winner.

- Andrea (@kernowsbm) November 11, 2020

Teacher James Theo said: "Edenred? Do you know what a disaster their rollout was? An utter shambles. This is like awarding Norwich the Premier League title for last season. You might want to rethink this as you have schools and teachers incensed by this."

How have @Edenreduk won this? You caused endless headaches for Headteachers, and more importantly disadvantaged children went hungry because of your ineptitude.

- Nick Lowry (@NickLowryEd) November 11, 2020

Jamie Nairn, a primary headteacher, said: "Are you joking?!?! Edenred were appalling in March & April. My staff had to work over time, at midnight, to get in the system! Families were left at the tills having to return shopping because their vouchers wouldn't work! What a disgrace!"

In order to win the award did you have to provide evidence that:
- your website didn't work
- your phones didn't work
- Headteachers went as far as using their own credit cards because of your incompetence?

- Teacher's Manual (@UnofficialOA) November 11, 2020

And Chris Dyson, another primary head, said: "You have got to be kidding me - totally undeserved! #Fact".

Edenred UK has been contacted for comment.

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