Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Lesley Longstone resigns - I'm riddiculously happy - but...

So Lesley Longstone resigned on Wednesday 19 December from her role as the Secretary of Education in New Zealand.  The State Services Commission, Iain Rennie, announced her resignation at a press conference in the middle of the day.  He said that the decision was reached three weeks ago after relationships with Hekia Parata, the Minister of Education, had reached a tipping point after being rather strained for most of the year.

It is interesting to note that Lesley Longstone left the country the Friday before the announcement to spend Christmas in the UK.  The Prime Minister's office also told reporters that Hekia Parata is on "holiday" (translation:  we gagged her!).  Considering that thousands of teachers, principals, teacher aides, other support staff and cleaners/caretakers are still having issues getting paid correctly thanks to Novopay being such a dog, one wonders why these two are on "holiday" at all.

I wrote a blogpost about Lesley Longstone back in October reviewing her time in the position up to that point and I found that she had not met the standard required in a Secretary of Education.

Many people with the announcement of her resignation have said that Lesley has been the fall guy for Hekia Parata's incompetence.  I would agree with that to an extent - but in my opinion, Lesley should never have gotten the position in the first place.  National only put her in that job because they knew no Kiwi in their right mind would dismantle our high performing education and advance GERM.  National knew they had to put a foreigner in charge.

They have also done this in the Treasury, Health and Social Development portfolios.  The lady put in charge of Social Development, Janet Grossman, bailed a few months ago, after nine months in the position.

The problem with using foreigners in these key positions is that there are things about New Zealand they just don't get - they don't understand our ethos of egalitaranism; they don't get our committment to the Treaty of Waitangi and the pain we have taken to recognise it; they don't get the cultural intracicies of the Maori and Pacific cultures; they don't get the history of our education, health or social welfare systems. 

With the resignation of Lesley Longstone, many people are now calling for Hekia to also fall on her sword.  It would seem that along with Hekia's miss steps this last year in the Education portfolio (another blog that I have yet to attempt!), Hekia has also had some difficult relationships with not just Lesley, but also with her private secretaries and key advisors.  This is somewhat telling.

Yet John Key continued to state he had full confidence in Hekia Parata as the Minister of Education - after he'd finished doing Gangnam Styles and "marrying" a radio DJ.

Iain Rennie has appointed former Public Service chief executive Peter Hughes as acting Secretary of Education when Lesley leaves the post on 9 February 2013.  Lesley will not have completed her five year contract, so she is getting paid out, a number expected to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Mr Hughes is described as someone who will take Education out of the headlines by running a tight ship.  If the Novopay debarcle hasn't been sorted out by then, it should be one of his top priorities, along with ensure a fair, accurate and transparent process for the provision of education in Christchurch.

Now our government has the task of replacing Lesley.  I should think that the first criteria should be someone who knows the nuances of New Zealand education.  Someone who holds dear the values that our education system was founded on back in 1880, the values that Peter Fraser and C.E. Beeby installed as our education system matured, the values that our widely admired (but stymied by National Standard), New Zealand Curriculum strives to teach our children.  There is a real opportunity here for the government to redirect education policy to improve what we already have rather than continuing to break it down, denegrade it, destroy it.

But our government clearly has their sights set on the GERM doctrine.

So I dread to think who they will take on to carry on their GERM agenda.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Novopay - or Nevapay!!

The Novopay issue has gone from bad to laughable to worse and the crystal ball is not looking favourably towards a resolution in this coming pay week. 

Google Novopay (go on, I dare you) and you will see endless complaints and news stories on this debarcle.  Thanks Campbell Live for taking up the cause for so many people who have been stuffed around by Novopay.

Novopay has a near $30 million contract with the Ministry of Education to service the payroll of the education sector.  So who does this pay roll cover?
  • primary and intermediate teachers
  • secondary teachers
  • kindergarten teachers
  • principals at secondary, primary, intermediate and middle schools
  • support staff (e.g. office administrators, teacher aides, librarians, science lab assistants, etc...)
  • cleaning staff and caretaker staff employed directly by schools
  • resource teachers (e.g. RTLB, RTLit....)
  • special education workers (e.g. speech language therapists, physiotherapists.....)
  • relief teachers in all sectors
There are over 120,000 people on this payroll at any one time and all of these professionals have had cases of their pay being affected.  Many of these people are the sole bread winners of their families.  All of these people would have bills to pay, even mortgages and/or loans to service.  A bit hard though when you are not getting paid.

Who is Novopay?  Novopay is a payroll company owned by Talent2 Global who state:

Talent2 multiplies the power and productivity of people. We are the leading HR BPO organisation in the Asia Pacific region, working with clients across diverse organisation types and industries to deliver end-to-end talent management solutions that put people first.

When you go to their website, click on the payroll section and then view the page regarding their stories of success with clients, New Zealand's education payroll does not feature (as at 2:29pm 11/11/12).  I guess with the list of problems outlined briefly below, it doesn't quite feature success, in fact, one could say that Novopay is WELL BELOW the standard!

So what are the common complaints we have been hearing about Novopay in regards to being paid, or not being paid:
  • not being paid
  • being paid too much
  • being paid too little
  • being paid when you are not supposed to be being paid (i.e. while on leave)
  • being paid one cent more or less than you are supposed to be
  • not having payments made to third parties (i.e. Kiwisaver and superannuation schemes - one wonders if our tax payments are being made, or student loan repayments)
  • Not being paid for part days (apparently this isn't something their system can do)
Then there are the pay slips themselves:
  • no prior notification in regards to the password needed to open it (have you noticed you still need the password even after you have saved the PDF to your own computer to open your payslip?  I'm finding this very irritating and inconvenient!).
  • The lack of information as to which days you have been paid for if you are a reliever.
Then there are the other wee inconveniences:
  • MOE numbers have changed when people changed schools or came back from leave.
  • Employment history such as qualifications, payscales, sick leave, years of service wiped due to either the change of MOE numbers or sheer incompetence in the system.
  • The fact that if you need to check what you have already inputted for the fortnigh, there is no click on button in the website to do this (I tried to help the admin lady at my school find it - no luck)
  • The fact that they have stuffed up most part-time employees' pay because their system didn't accept part days!
Talent 2 has had at least four years to get their Novopay system up and running.  They got the contract in 2008!  According to this editorial in the Dominion, Novopay have asked repeatedly for delays to their system coming online so they could iron out the bugs and ''to ensure we introduce a payroll system that pays every staff member the right amount, on time, every time''.  Tui ad anyone?

There was no testing the system properly before it went online.  Infact, earlier this year, Novopay asked their start time to be deferred until into 2013, but the MOE refused this request.  Who is responsible?  Well, let's see, who is in charge of the MOE?  Lesley Longstone.  Again Lesley fails to meet the standard as this directly falls under her sphere of influence.  For more information, read Kelvin Smythe's blog.

Schools are now sending invoices to the MOE to request reimbursement for the extreme amount of staff hours now spent on sorting out payroll stuff ups by Novopay.  Auckland principals are refusing to implement MOE policy until the stuff ups stop and are sorted.  Some people, mainly support staff, have stopped going to work - how can you run a car to go to work if you have no money because you haven't been paid?  Many people have run up credit card debt, defaulted on loan and/or mortgage payments, paid their bills late - if at all - and incurred penalty fees.  Should they bare the brunt of this when it was outside of their control, when previously they had been paid properly and on time?

So as I write this blog, on the eve of another pay day, keeping an eye on the chat about Novopay on Facebook and Twitter, I can tell you that a number of people have not received their payslips for tomorrow, that some have received a payslip and found errors, and some have lost hope in being paid tomorrow.

Three months into the actual implementation and Novopay have not met the standard.

Who will take responsibility?  Will it be a lacky at Novopay?  What about Talent2?  Will Lesley Longstone take responsibility?  Or will some lacky further down the MOE food chain be sacrificed?  Does the buck stop with Craig Foss or Hekia Parata?

I don't see this situation being resolved anytime soon.  With End Of Year pays and changes of staff in the New Year, I see a whole lot more problems in my crystal ball when it comes to Novopay for the education profession, the MOE and Novopay.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Bullshit John Key says....

This morning I watched John Key on Breakfast (TV1) because Rawdon Christie said that the Prime Minister would be on to discuss the backout of Kyoto by his government and the Novopay debarcle.

Check it out here:

Predictably, John Key defended the decision to have Associate Education Minister Craig Foss deal with Novopay.  Predictably he cited commercial sensitivity when questioned about the sanctions Novopay and its parent company Talent2 would face if the issues are not fixed by the Wednesday deadline Mr Foss has set.  (By the way, don't hold your breath on that one; our admin lady has already picked up the same set of errors for our cleaner/caretaker position that we've had for the last three months!)

Craig Foss has come under some intense scrutiny by the opposition in parliament over the Novopay debarcle.  Nanaia Mahuta (Labour Education spokesperson) has called for Hekia Parata to step in and solve the issue herself.  The NZEI has called for a public inquiry into the Novopay debarcle.  However, John Key claims that Mr Foss is doing a great job with this issue he has been delegated, and that it is actually Novopay at fault, that it is Novopay who is responsible for fixing the issues.

John claimed that the previous payroll provider (Datacom/Multiserve) couldn't carry on as their system was breaking down.  Well, that is news to administrators and principals in schools about the country I am sure!!  The lovely admin lady at our school scoffed at the PM's assertion.  She has been in the job for ten years or so at our school, and she has never had a headache with the payroll like she has had with it since Novopay went online.  Even the fact that she is an administrator at a neighbouring school as well put Novopay in a complete spin!!  She dreads pay week now!

John Key tried to claim that there are many intricacies in teachers' pay.  Yes, there are some extra allowances, units, etc., but Novopay don't know their percentages, fractions and decimals because one of their biggest problems in paying people is the fact they don't seem to be able to process people who work part time or relieve for part days.  So I guess they fail the numeracy standard.

Between 5:38-6:20 in the Breakfast interview, John Key valiantly tries to defend Hekia Parata as the Minister of Education.  He made this very true statement: "Quite frankly if you put any of the twenty of us in Cabinet into that portfolio we'd face just the same issues."

Well Mr Key, let me put it in simple words even you can understand:  Your Minister of Education, regardless of who they are, will be passionately opposed by the education sectors while they continue to push forward policies that are detrimental to New Zealand's quality public education system, best practise, sound research and what is best for children!!!!!

"A well organised opposition" is what Mr Key said has been mounted against Hekia Parata - again here he speaks the truth.  We are a well organised opposition because we have good practise and research on our side.  Parents want what is best for their children - and they are increasingly aware that NACT policy is not in the best interests of their children.

In regards to Kyoto, I have to say I am very disappointed that New Zealand will not be participating.  It seems that John Key and his government do not value the clean green 100% pure image we have spent a fortune on advertising to the world for the last decade or more.  "We are a tiny, tiny part of world emissions..." says John Key - yes we are, but we need to make sure our tiny, tiny part of world emissions is dealt to.  If we don't do our bit, how can we expect to exert influence over growing industrial nations like India and China to get them to decrease their emissions?

So that really is just the bullshit that John Key said today.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Lesley Longstone - has she met the standard for a Secretary of Education?

Lesley Longstone, Secretary of Education, looking a little
rattled on Campbell Live on Tuesday 2 October.
Lesley Longstone is the Secretary of Education, in charge of the Ministry of Education in New Zealand since November 2011.  She was appointed by the National government.  Lesley comes from England where her role there was to set up Free Schools - England's version of Charter Schools - consequently helping to desconstruct the schools run by the boroughs in England.

Let's make no mistake about why Lesley was employed by National.  They want her to dismantle New Zealand's quality public education system.

Incidentally, the National government also replaced the head of the Ministry of Health with a hatchet man, also British, who last wielded his hatchet on the Scottish health sector; and also replaced the Treasury head who retired last year with another Brit who believes to improve teacher quality New Zealand should increase class sizes.  Hmmmm, I see a pattern of appointments.  Do you?

The previous Secretary of Education, Karen Sewell, was a woman with considerable knowledge and respect in education circles in New Zealand.  She had over seen the development of a new world leading curriculum and was involved in leading the MOE with wonderful professional development throughout the teaching sectors.  However, she saw the direction National was heading down - National Standards, Charter Schools, performance pay, slash and burning the MOE..... - and she resigned.

National realised that no one in New Zealand educational circles would dismantle the state funded quality public education system we have, so they looked overseas for someone who would.  Ofcourse they looked in places like the United Kingdom and the United States of America - who are so far behind New Zealand in educational rankings it is not funny.
Recent events over Christchurch and Lesley's performance on Campbell Live have made me begin to reflect on how things are going for Lesley and the MOE since she began, after all she has been in the role for almost eleven months and gets a salary of $660 000. 
I believe that Lesley Longstone has failed to meet the standard.  And below I will explain why.  Some text has links to other sites to back my assertions.
  • As of the 1st of March this year, after four months in New Zealand, Lesley had not set foot in a New Zealand school.  She had plenty of time before the school year ended in 2011 to visit a school.  She had all of February.  I would have thought that if you are in charge of education in a country you would have made sure you would have visited at least one high school, one primary school, one kindergarten, one day care, one university, one polytech and one private training establishment within the first month - hmmmmm, I may have set a standard that is quite high there, but I'm confident she may have been to a school or two since.  Epic fail Lesley.
  • Then there was the day, 29th of February to be exact, where she fled from reporters across the courtyard at Parliament.  She had been there reporting to a select committee about finance.  When she left, she was confronted by reporters asking question about the sex offender Henry Miko affair.  One thing we can say about Lesley is that she'd be great for the parent running race at an athletics day!!  But, epic fail in public relations Lesley.
  • Pretty much since Lesley first arrived, Moerewa School was on her radar.  Moerewa School was a school that saw National Standards as not being helpful in their students' learning journey.  So the MOE decided that one of the best ways to make Moerewa 'pull their heads in' was to go after their senior students.  Moerewa School had 'attached' their Year 11 - 13 students to the roll of another secondary school for the past 3 years. This Satellite Class/Attached Unit organisation is a legitimate Ministry schooling option - and the Ministry's resourcing division funded Moerewa and staffed them for 3 years. Unfortunately Moerewa School was suddenly accused of this being an 'illegal' arrangement (how so?) and the rug was pulled from beneath them... kids were forced to stop attending school onsite at Moerewa, and were told to attend other secondary schools (even when some of them had been kicked out of the local schools they were being told to go back to!). The Board was sacked and the Commissioner appointed (at the school's expense!).  These students are now repeating credits they had already achieved, and recently, with the review completed, their credits they had earned had been shown to have standing.  Lesley Longstone was active in this decision.  She defended the actions and decisions made on Maori TV (Native Affairs), but had not even visited the far north to meet with the school until 19 April, and didn't even go into the school itself.  Epic fail on communications Lesley, and a total misrepresentation of the actual situation.
  • Which brings us to the Budget in May and the announcement by Hekia Parata that in order to improve teacher quality class sizes will rise.  Now, strictly one could say this was Hekia's stuff up - but that is another blog.  However, the figures and senarios for this would have to be derived by the Ministry of Education and should have also gone through Lesley's hands.  If she didn't want her political masters to look bad, she would have been thorough one would think.  However, she did stick to the mantra that it was a good thing with gems like: 
                But the ministry's Secretary for Education, Lesley Longstone, says while some
                schools will receive reduced funding, others will see an increase.
                Longstone said it was the ministry's expectation that intermediate schools will
                keep their technology centres if they are "offering high quality teaching and
                learning".  25 May One News
         This video shows that Lesley can also talk gobble-de-gook to confuse
         the situation.  But clearly evident is the blinkers that went on to block out her
         understanding of the effect this policy would have on many schools, particulary
         intermediates and those with technology units.  Epic fail here for         
         comprehension Lesley.
  • September 5 was the day NovaPay had its first big test - actually paying one of the largest workforces in New Zealand - the people who work in schools.  It was an epic fail.  Pay slips failed to be emailed in the correct timeframe.  People had no information about how to access their pay slip when it first arrived as it was passworded for the first time ever!!  Some people were not paid enough - or paid one cent more or less than they should have been.  Some were paid thousands in excess of what should have gone into their bank accounts.  Some people were paid who shouldn't have been.  Some people, particulary relievers, support staff and cleaners/caretakers, didn't get paid at all!!!  NovaPay had apparently told the MOE it wasn't ready to begin, that it wanted to wait until next year.  But the MOE told them it was now or never.  There was no trial.  There was no staged introduction to ensure it was correct and running smoothly.  School admin staff and principals spent hours and hours sorting the issues out and trying to navigate NovaPay.  Will the MOE be reimbursing schools for this?  And a month later there are still issues, including illegally, with no notification, clawing back emergency payments made to staff who weren't paid in the initial stuff up!  The Minister knew there were issues before September!  Seriously, this was one monumental stuff up, and the buck has to stop with the big cheese - that is Lesley.  The introduction of NovaPay, intending to save the government lots of money, was an epic fail in organisation Lesley.
  • September was a busy month for stuff ups.  Remember the debarcle of telling Christchurch schools about the 'rejuvenation of education in Christchurch' on 13th September?  Colour coded badges so Lesley, Hekia and Gerry would know the fate of the school the questioner belonged to even if the questioner didn't.  Telling the media the information was embargoed at the end of a meeting after media had already uploaded the information online.  Attempting to make it look like less schools are being closed than actually are.  And the errors in data (separate bullet point below). Epic fail in public relations and communication, Lesley.
  • Then the media released National Standards data ahead of the Minister releasing the data on their website Education Counts.  This was ofcourse contrary to the statements made by the previous Minister of Education, Anne Tolley, and contrary to advice given to Hekia Parata, the current Minister of Eduation.  But Lesley is clearly the person who enables the MOE to colate and release this information.  But the MOE and Minister were beaten to the punch by Fairfax.  I fear for the privacy of students, particularly in small schools like mine.  It is a straight out fail and attack on the learning journeys of every child in our country for Lesley.
  • And now we come back to the debarcle of the data for Christchurch schools.  It didn't take long for principals and BOTs to ask what data was used to based these decisions/proposals on, then look at the data, and then blow the whistle on the inaccurate data.  Campbell Live surveyed 27 schools and found 22 schools had had decisions/proposals made about them with totally inaccurate data!!  One school had five buildings, but the data said they had 50 building with irrepairable damage!!  A long jump pit at one school was called liquifaction in the data!!  Some of the buildings were brand new with no damange.  One school had two cracks in a building and one running through the seal on a courtyard.  How could the MOE get that so wrong?  Who checks this material?  Who signs off the material?  Who does the buck stop with?  Epic fail here Lesley.
  • To Lesley Longstone's credit, she did front up to Campbell Live to answer questions about how the Ministry of Education got it so wrong.  To put it politely, Lesley was rather ruffled, flustered and looked in a panic at times.  John Campbell really had Lesley on the ropes.  She stated that they used the roll, damage to buildings and geotechnic evaluations on the land to make decisions.  I can tell you that assessment of achievement was also used as a factor - but Lesley will deny it.  The roll figures they used were from March, because she claims the July figures were "provisional".  I ask if July figures are so "provisional" why are they used as the staffing formula for 2013 and each school informed in September?  Lesley said there would be "Some schools with different interpretations" of the data and that "three schools out of fifteen school" with mistakes in their data wasn't a major problem - she'd obviously failed to watch the previous piece to her interview!  Lesley said, "Damage is not alwasys visible, and we can only go on the basis of the independent professional assessment that we have."  So how come these independent professionals who assessed all this didn't feed the same information back to the principals and BOTs of the schools concerned?  John Campbell asked, "So the damage means that these schools can no longer be occupied?"  Lesley replied, "No, if the damage was so significant that they could no longer be occupied, then we would be dealing with those issues now.... but there is sufficient seriousness that they need to be dealt with and that is part of our assessment."  Lesley said that the MOE have provided schools with the data so the MOE and the schools can go through and work it out together.  My question is, why wasn't this done prior to the announcement in mid-September and the release of the report?  Again Lesley, there is an epic fail on dotting the i's and crossing the t's for this report and the future of Christchurch schooling, and I'm concerned at the waste of money printing a report full of errors is!
  • There is also the problem of using confusing language to show which schools really are closing, merging or staying in Christchurch.  It is too confusing to describe here, but Campbell Live used the MOE's own documentation and figured out that it wasn't just 13 schools closing, but by the time you merge schools, the correct closure figure is actully 31.  Epic fail on communication yet again Lesley.
  • Now it also appears that Lesley Longstone has been attending a number of conferences lately, namely the NZEI Rural Principals' Conference in Nelson and the Normal Schools' Conference in Wellington.  However, I can tell you that her absence was conspicuous at the NZEI Annual Meeting when the Minister arrived to speak - traditionally the Secretary of Education usually attends with the Minister.  Apparently she was somewhat ruffled at both, particularly at the Wellington conference.  Another blogger (see link above) commented that her appearance belied the strain she was obviously under and that the job was obviously out of her depth:  "Her dress was carefully unfashionable; her hair arranged to appear bedraggled; and her back festooned by a knapsack."  And then she did this:  ‘Primary schools should have been weeded out 20 years ago,’ she said. ‘Now we are going to do it.’  Apparently she thinks the following:  The New Zealand education system, she said, ‘was not mature enough’ to handle the decentralisation of Tomorrow’s Schools and schools shot off in all directions.  She doesn't factor in demographics of a student population and considers achievement, or lack of it, is down to the principal of each school:  Longstone then made a considerable song and dance about in-school variability of children’s school performance. This was the fault she said of inefficient principals....  The point she kept driving home, or implying, was that the system needed more centralisation, more simplification, less resistance from the periphery, so that government policies could be implemented swiftly and without obstruction.  She obviously believes, along with her political masters, that principals and teachers and their school communities should sit down, shut up and do as the government tells them.  When asked about the Finnish model of schooling and Normal Schools:  The expression ‘weeding out’ was constantly used.  ‘Strict accountability,’ she said, ‘was the future for schools.’  ‘That is the model for success,’ she said.  ‘What about the Finland model?’ protested a principal.  ‘Forget Finland,’ Longstone shot back. ‘The model is Singapore.’  All this was delivered in a take it or leave it style. The lady, she seemed to be communicating, doesn’t care a damn.  A question was asked that occasioned a moment of minor tragic-comedy.  ‘How do you see normal schools?’  ‘I don’t. They are invisible.’  Remember we, the tax payer, pay her $660 000 salary each year.  She obviously has no understanding of the development of our education system and how it is structured, which, remember, is what makes her so perfect from the National government's point of view, because they have employed her to deconstruct our quality public education system.  So Lesley, epic fail on presenting yourself, epic fail on understanding the basis of the NZ education system, and yet again, epic fail on public relations.
So, I know most of these things I have related you have seen for yourself over the past year.  But when you put it all on one page it is rather confronting. 
Lesley Longstone is in charge of our quality public education system, a system she has made no effort to understand and whose main objective is to dismantle it according to right wing idealogy also known as GERM - Global Education Reform Movement.  She obviously has no control or uses any oversight in the Ministry of Education because the class size issue and data mistakes for Christchurch schools shows a definite lack of due attention.  She obviously is not coping with the enormity of the job as her demenour and appearance as proven at various conferences and on Campbell Live. 
To cap it off, her job is on the line according to those in the know.  It would seem that she has not met the standards set by her National government masters.  What worries me is that if Lesley Longstone goes, what will replace her?
My assessment is that Lesley Longstone does not meet the standard for a Secretary of Education in charge of our quality public education system.  In fact, it has been an epic fail.

Note:  I've just been alerted to a mistake above.  Apparently it was Karen Sewell who earned $660,000 as the Secretary of Education.  Apparently, Lesley is only being paid $330,000.

I guess, if you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

I appologise for misleading you.  But I got that figure from an opinion piece by Patrick Gower from TV3 News (the one that is a link called "29 of February").  I assumed, wrongly, that he would have the correct facts.

Added extra:  Campbell Live featured a story on Monday 15 October about the debarcle of NovaPay.  We wait with baited breathe for Wednesday 17 October to see what trouble comes of the fourth pay round since NovaPay took over, considering the first three were fraught with problems.  After discussing this issue with my Admin Officer today, she told me that at the two schools she works at (we share her with another small school down the road) we still have issues with the pay for our cleaner/caretakers and a reliever at the other school still hasn't been paid correctly.  And my Admin Officer is totally over Fur Elise as well!!