The website of payment firm ParentPay was unavailable for several hours, meaning parents could not transfer funds for school meals and trips.
The company normally serves more than 5,500 schools in 200 local authorities, helping about 1.5 million families.
The company said it was affected “by a national internet connectivity issue – impacting some users. This is out of our control and we’ll update you.”
Some parents said their children were unable to buy food due to the glitch.
ParentPay said payments had been suspended until the issue was resolved.
By 17:30 BST, the website’s homepage appeared to be accessible again, but the company had not yet confirmed whether the system was functioning.
One parent, Victoria Lew, said on Twitter she had been trying to access her account for two hours.
“What do [the] kids do for lunch?” she asked, adding that she had been unable to get through to the company on the phone.
Charlotte Banks said on Facebook that neither of her sons had been able to buy food.
“This is getting ridiculous now. Seems to be every few days there are issues with this site,” she said.
People also expressed scepticism about the company’s explanation for the outage.
Heidi Burrows said: “The only company who appears to have national internet connectivity are ParentPay, so I think you may want to adjust your wording as many of us work in big firms relying on internet and no one else is having this issue!”
What is ParentPay?
- An online payment system for schools, allowing parents to pay for meals, trips and activities, uniforms, music lessons and fees
- Parents top up their ParentPay account by debit or credit card, or in cash through PayPoint stores
- The system can send alerts when a child’s catering balance is running low
- Schools can also use it to send emails, texts and newsletters to parents