Pay securely for lunches, trips, DofE and enrichment courses

We operate a 'cashless' payment system at Varndean School for students and staff. This allows students and staff to use a cashless catering card to buy food and beverages rather than having to bring cash to school.  

The cashless catering card works like a debit card, holding a balance from which any purchase amount is deducted. Parents can top up the account balance by making online payments via ParentPay. Balances can also be checked at a machine when the canteen is open for students or they are on view at the tills after a transaction. A balance reminder via email will always be sent out to parents when a top up is needed.

Dolphin and 1926 pods are open same as above with additional morning break service.

Since September 2020, Varndean has no longer accepted cash in any form. Therefore, students will only be able to buy food at the canteen through their cashless catering cards which can be topped up by ParentPay.

As well as lunch payments, the online account also enables you to pay for school trips and other products such as revision books. 

Passwords and login details are sent home. The log in link is below. In the meantime, you can find out more in the FAQs below, or on the ParentPay website.

ParentPay Log-in


ParentPay FAQs

What is the purpose of the cashless system?

The aim is to shorten queues at lunch time by making payment faster. As many as 200 students pass through the canteen in a 10-minute period during a typical day. It is also more convenient for parents and students not to have to bring cash to school every day. The system also provides enhanced sales information, helping Varndean Catering with menu-planning.

Who do I contact if I have any queries about the food or about ParentPay?

If you do have a question that can’t be answered here then you can email 

How is the card used to purchase food and drink?

The card is scanned at the till and the money spent deducted from the balance.

How does my child get a card to use in the canteen?

All students will be given their first card for free when they begin attending Varndean School.

How can I top up my child’s card?

The card can be topped up online by logging on to your parentpay account. You will receive a user name and password and can then credit the account using a debit or credit card.

ParentPay login 

How do I check my balance?

You can check your balance online at ParentPay, at the cash loader or every time that a transaction takes place at the cash register.

How much money will my child need per day?

It is of course entirely up to you how much money you wish to top up your child’s card with. 

A lunch time meal of a main and dessert is available daily for £2.20. (this does not include a drink) The average daily spend on students' cards is £1.20 at break time and £3.05 at lunch.

What if my child loses their card?

If a card is lost please notify Varndean School immediately and the lost card can be deactivated.

Loss of a card will not mean financial loss to the cardholder; the balance of the card is held on a secure database and can be transferred to a new card. If the card is not found, a new one can be issued and will carry all the previous data and balance. If your child loses their card they will need to go and see the canteen staff who can arrange to have a new one issued, there is a charge for a replacement: £3.00 for a new card or £5.00 for key fob & holder.

What if someone else tries to use my child’s card?

When a student uses their card and swipes it to make payment a photo comes up on the screen so that the till operator can verify that it is the correct student using the card.

What happens if the card account runs out of credit?

On occasion we understand that you may have forgotten to top up the card, or not realised the balance has got too low. In this case students are allowed a temporary overdraft facility, which must be paid back the next day. If this limit is exceeded, the card cannot be used until it is back in credit. (Please see overspend policy below.)

What if a student forgets their lunch card? 

If a student does not have their card with them when they come into the canteen they will need to queue up so that we can check their account and give them a permission slip to get lunch that day. They will then need to queue up again to get their lunch. This can cause long delays at the till and will take a lot longer for your child to get their food, so please try and ensure that your child always has their card with them.

Can cash be used to pay for any food at Varndean School?

No, our till system is not set up to allow us to accept cash in the canteen.

Can I limit the amount my child spends each day? 

Yes, parents can place a daily or weekly spending limit on students' accounts. In order to activate this control parents will need to email

How can I see what my child is spending?

You can view this information by logging on to ParentPay and going to the ‘My Account’ section. Here you can see any money that has been loaded on to the account and the purchases that have been made. Please note the Free School Meals allowance will not show up online.

Will I get a receipt for my purchase?

When you load money on to the card using Parentpay online you will be sent a confirmation email as receipt of this purchase. 

Overspend policy

It is important that students always ensure that their card is kept topped up, however it is also important to ensure that students have something to eat at lunchtime. If this is the case and they have nothing to eat with them then they can have one of these emergency food options:

Morning break: 1 x £0.85 food item (No drinks)

Lunch time: 1 x hot pasta £1.30 (No drinks)

Please note there are water fountains for student use.

The student will need to queue up and get an emergency food slip, we will check the account and add the emergency lunch item on. You must then ensure that the money for this is put onto the account by the next morning, along with enough money for the next day/s lunches.

Students who do not repay the emergency food cost by then, or who try to bypass or abuse the system will be referred to their School base.

Free School Meals

The FSM allowance of £2.20 is loaded daily on to the card. The balance of the allowance will only show at the till and will not show online on ParentPay or at the cash loader in the canteen. If the allowance is not fully spent on the day there is no rollover facility for the balance. The FSM allowance cannot be used for breakfast service -  it is activated after 9am.

As there is no rollover facility we do advise where possible to top up the daily allowance with some money to allow the student to purchase additional items if needed.

Kiosk for pre-ordering - Click & Collect service for all cold food items and beverages

There is a machine to the left of the cash loader where students can place their orders. If you have any queries with regards to the above, please email


Staff duty allowances of £2.20 per day are loaded on a weekly basis on to the card, the balance of the allowance will only show at the till, this will not show online on Parentpay. If the allowance is not fully spent by the end of the week it will be lost as there is no rollover facility for the balance.

New students

Once a student has been registered on our SIMS database system then they can be issued with a card, this is the same for all students, including those receiving Free School Meals. New students starting with us in Year 7 will be issued with a card on their first day and told how to use it. 

For financial queries please contact: 

For catering and food queries please contact: