Geoff O'Halloran, deputy principal of Tawa College,
Wellington, explains why he thinks the Novopay payroll system
will benefit schools.
The introduction of Novopay has been difficult. I cannot
dispute that. There have been too many errors.
But despite all of the difficulties, I am convinced the
introduction of Novopay was a good decision and will achieve
As a teacher of 37 years' experience, I guess you could say I
am an outsider working on the inside of this project.
That is why I and other teachers and education groups were
invited on to the reference group. The ministry wanted the
views of professionals who know the pressures on schools and
who could give a straight-forward opinion, however
uncomfortable it might be to hear.
I know there are lots of people working hard to try to ensure
the system works as effectively and as efficiently as
possible. I know, because I work with them every day. They
are all determined to make this system work and, actually, it
is working for the vast majority of school staff. About
90,000 are getting paid every fortnight.
But of course some are not being paid or are being underpaid
and that is not good enough. As a deputy principal, I would
not tolerate that, and I would not expect other schools or
But I think it is important we take a balanced view. Overall,
the system is working. The number of people who have been
overpaid or underpaid each fortnight has dramatically
But there are still too many errors. And that is damaging the
That is why the ministry stepped up its training and
information programmes. And why I and others stepped in to
help. The more direct assistance we can give, the better the
outcome for schools.
I have just spent the last two weeks travelling around the
country taking part in the ministry's training road-shows.
More than 2200 school staff attended, representing about half
of New Zealand schools.
On the whole, participants were really grateful for the
opportunity to be able to ask questions and get some answers
to take back to their school.
They will not become experts overnight, but we made some real
steps forward in explaining the system.
These sessions have now ended, but up to 10 specialist case
managers, including former school principals, senior staff
and payroll administrators, are available to work directly
with schools managing any further issues that may arise.
The sheer size and complexity of the system was always going
to make the introduction of Novopay a challenge.
There are about 2500 schools in New Zealand, and therefore
2500 separate employers - boards of trustees.
Permanent staff in schools are, in the main, being paid on
time and accurately through Novopay. It is for those staff
who use timesheets where things have been challenging.
Everybody I work with recognises that fact and understands
Add to that there are 15 separate collective agreements
embedded in the software and you add a great deal more
But these early difficulties should not distract us from the
benefits. Novopay will be an accurate and efficient online
payroll service. Schools will have immediate access to their
own payroll information.
There will be a computerised record of all transactions,
making the system safer and more transparent.
And, yes, Novopay will save schools time. Almost every
transaction will be done at the touch of a button rather than
filling out forms, and crucially schools will have more time
to concentrate on other duties.
Once we have ironed out these transitional issues, I am
convinced Novopay will be an effective, modern system.
I am glad Novopay was introduced in my school and I am
pleased I have been involved in a project that I know will
deliver real benefits.