THE parents of thousands of pupils returning to school in East Lothian yesterday were unable to pre-pay online for their youngsters’ lunch or snacks after a cashless card system crashed.

East Lothian Council’s SchoolPay system, which was introduced in October, developed problems over the weekend, with frustrated parents unable to top up their children’s cards.

The local authority said problems seemed to have occurred with the external payment supplier Capita.

And they pledged to make sure that no child missed out on a meal by honouring all pre-ordered meals for primary school youngsters with payment deferred until the issue was resolved.

The local authority’s most recent checks suggest that 86 per cent of its 16,235 pupil population are signed up to the SchoolPay system.

Secondary pupils are able to take cash into school and top up their cards themselves at canteen machines.

The cashless system allows parents to go online to deposit money onto the children’s cards which can be used to pay for school meals, trips and other items.

The council said free school meal payments had already been processed and were not affected by the issues.

A spokesperson said: “Our online payment supplier, Capita, has been experiencing intermittent issues with its platform which is affecting a number of local authority areas who use their services. This has affected some of our online payment systems, including SchoolPay.

“Our priority is to ensure that all children and young people can continue to pre-order and receive a school meal and we have put in place measures so that this can happen.

“For primary school pupils, changes have been made to allow pre-ordering of meals to continue as normal.  Payment for these meals can be made at a later date, once the issue with Capita is resolved.

“For secondary schools, pupils can still take cash to charge their cards in the canteen machines as normal. Pupils who receive free school meals will continue to have their accounts credited.

“We’ve spoken with our schools to make sure that this message is relayed to their parent communities and will continue to update them as the issue is resolved.

“We are sorry for the inconvenience that Capita’s issues are causing families and will continue to press for a speedy resolution.

School canteens no longer accept cash or cheque payments for pupils’ meals or snacks or drinks.

It appears that the SchoolPay system was back online and functioning this morning (Wednesday).