ED's Letter

August 2014


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Let Novopay be a lesson

Jude BarbackI once worked on an influenza journal that was struggling for content – so much so that when news first broke of bird flu, my first reaction was journalistic glee ... and then horror at myself for delighting in such a grim topic.

I remember feeling much the same way about Novopay in its infancy. From the editor’s chair, at first Novopay was – to be brutally honest – simply a good story. Not good as in ‘feel-good’, obviously, but it was a story with grit and relevance to the entire education sector.

But as the months rolled on, the more I spoke with teachers, principals, and school administrators at the suffering end of the payroll debacle, the more the situation frustrated me. Like the 90,000 something people on the Ministry of Education’s payroll, I wished Novopay would just go away – story or no story.

Minister Steven Joyce’s recent announcement for a Government-owned company to replace Talent2 in managing a new operating model for the school payroll system appears to offer a glimmer of hope.

Let’s hope the change of management brings an end to the problems. True, Novopay has been operating better recently, but issues remain with the start-of-year process and the service desk support, and there are still reports of bizarre inaccuracies creeping in.

The Government’s fix-it plan aims to address these things and simplify the system overall. But equally importantly, surely under Government control, there will have to be more transparency than the previous set-up – hopefully an end to the finger-pointing and buck-passing that cloaked Novopay, particularly in those early days.

Novopay has now cost the taxpayer $110 million – $45 million more than budgeted. Nothing less than a silver bullet will do.

Novopay, and all its troubles, presents an interesting metaphor for the use of technology in education. It is all very well having the latest systems, gadgets, devices, and programmes, but if they don’t serve their fundamental purpose, their raison d’etre, then perhaps we are better off without them.

It is all very well aiming to have a device in the hands of every student, but if this does nothing to enhance learning or to raise student achievement, then what is the point? Within this issue of ICT & Procurement we meet some wonderful educators who are using the available technology to their very best advantage. From Minecraft, to 3D printers, to video-conferencing, to Facebook, to 1:1 device programmes, to cloud-base student management systems, we look at the many ways that technology can make a real difference to education.

Jude Barback, Editor

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