Because my attention is on the betrayal of school education by the PPTA and the continuing sneaky efforts by NZPF to manoeuvre the primary schools into that IES maw – I’m not going to spin this posting out. Anyway, the reason for the Novopay problem is piece of cake, as is the solution.
Novapay should be seen as a metaphor for the deeply careless and exploitive nature of school education of the present government with, once again, the burden falling most heavily on primary schools. Up to now, my attention has been to other symptoms of the government’s behaviour – but a glance at this matter.
And yes, at base, in my view, it’s this government’s fault.
Let us imagine that the solution to the Novopay crisis is provided in the posting below, and that solution is available through the spending of a certain amount of money, not a huge amount, but a significant amount, say $10 million a year, what would that say about the government?
The government has observed the anguish the crisis has caused school teachers and other staff, the distraction to clerical staff, the interference to the administration of schools, the direct effect on children’s learning by the now common practice of the principal taking charge of school pay – if there was a simple solution at hand but not acted on because of the cost and ideological reasons, what would that say about the government?
There was no proper Novopay trial; we all know that – no proper trial, in the sense of there being a proper oversight by people with half an understanding of the process and how schools work, and in the sense of a proper oversight by a minister with half an understanding of the process and how schools works. It was a double whammy of incompetence. This meant that people with half an understanding of the process and how schools work were reporting to a minister also with half an understanding of the process and how schools work. Moreover this minister was also embroiled in cat-and-cat fight with Lesley Longstone. My goodness – a triple whammy.
So, in the first instance, it was the government’s fault.
But for there to be a solution, but not acted on because of the cost and ideological reasons, then heads should fall.
So let’s get going.
The faults in Novopay began at about 20 per cent as computer programming faults now considerably improved, say, under 10 per cent. The reason for the other faults obviously lies elsewhere – they lie in the matter of the organisation of personnel. These faults emanated from a very simple operating difference between Novopay and Multiserve, an operating difference designed to save Novopay money – a difference to have calamitous implications for schools.
Under Multiserve, when the pay forms came in from schools, they were received by expert pay practitioners who checked the forms for accuracy. If the forms were found correct, they were handed on to data entry people; if found incorrect, they were corrected before being entered and, in a crucial final step, the clerical person in schools informed.
If the pay form was incorrect, Multiserve experts communicated with the clerical people in schools – in other words an immediate and particularised educative function was carried out. It was a case of actions occurring in schools receiving an immediate and corrective reaction if that was needed.
But under the present system, the pay forms are sent directly to data entry people in Wellington, people whose only task it is to tap in the data. These people as a result blithely enter data of the most horrendously incorrect nature – leading to terrible pay messes.
A non-solution was developed by the government’s Mr Fixit in response to these: when things get into the inevitable shemozzle, the problem ends up in one of four main centres, with expert pay practitioners employed by the ministry (Auckland 3, Wellington 2, Christchurch 2, and Dunedin 1). The individual pay problems now, though, a tangle of mind-blowing complexity that take aeons to sort out.
But because the numbers of the expert pay practitioners are so small and the problems such a tangle, the educative communication so promptly provided by the expert pay practitioners in the Multiserve system is, in the Novopay system, much delayed if provided at all.
To educate schools, sometimes the experts are sent out on missions to schools, but this is close to mission impossible because the ministry is too understaffed and schools by nature typically in a state of some flux. In other words, things don’t stay fixed. This is not an efficient way to carry out the corrective, educative function so crucial to a pay system for schools. The experts, I’m sure, feel as though plugging the dyke.
Even if schools get things right for a period, the stability of that rightness is one of considerable fragility – the system is hostage to fortune: the clerical person may be ill, on leave, or have left; or the same if the principal has assumed responsibility; or a new pay issue arises – a new teacher arrives with a different set of pay issues, or there is a new settlement perhaps for pay, holidays, or maternity.
Like snakes and ladders, down the ladder go a certain number of schools each pay period.
The solution to the Novopay problem is quite simple: appoint an appropriate number of people to be expert pay practitioners and reinstate the Multiserve practice of having such people check the pay forms sent in by schools, and if not correct to communicate with schools how to get them right next time.
I believe the Novopay contract was, from the beginning, based on the cynical idea of giving a responsibility to schools that was properly Novapay’s. To assume schools could carry that responsibility was heroic given the pressures and demands characteristic of contemporary schooling; the degree of instability in school staffing; and the complexity of pay issues. It was especially cynical in that this allocation of responsibility and the money it saved Novopay, was probably the difference between profit and loss.
I believe that the government knew this, knows this – and is cynically fiddling with a solution, crying crocodile tears, asking Steven Joyce to play the avuncular, when it knows they got it wrong in accepting the contract in the first place, but unwilling to renegotiate the contract at some cost to it and against its ideology of asking schools to do more while all the time giving them less.