Improving payroll services to schools

Issue: Volume 93, Number 16

Posted: 8 September 2014
Reference #: 1H9csi

The school payroll service comes under government management from 17 October 2014. Cathy Magiannis, deputy secretary, education payroll services (EPS), is leading the dedicated transition programme for the Ministry of Education. We talk to Cathy about the change and what schools can expect to see.

 Q: Why the change?

“A government-owned company means that we can have much more influence in ensuring that the needs of schools are met. In the previous arrangement, where accountabilities were split, this accountability was hard to achieve. We expect to see more transparency and have greater control over responding to issues. This will enable us to give schools a more stable, sustainable, and simple payroll service.”

Q: What will schools notice about the change?

“Our first priority is that over the transition, we maintain system stability and support to schools. There will be no significant changes during transition. The forms and contact numbers that schools use, as well as Novopay Online (NOL), remain unchanged. Our education payroll advisers, who work daily with school administrators as part of our regional support programme, will continue to provide them with close support. The Novopay service desk will remain the first point of contact.

“Once we are through transition, we expect over time to be able to provide better service desk support for administrators and better access to education payroll expertise. We are aiming for a programme of continuous improvement in the operation of the schools’ payroll, including a revised service delivery model that includes simplification of a number of aspects of the current model.”

Q: What is the current state of Novopay?

“Many schools, in welcoming the change, have told us that they believe the system has steadily improved over the past few months. That improvement has been made possible by the considerable effort made by both Talent2 staff and the Ministry. We have been able to stabilise and improve the payroll delivery system since the height of the problems following ‘go-live’. It has been a long, and at times, hard road for everyone involved – not least for schools and their staff. Things are improving gradually and this new management model will continue to build on those improvements.”

Q: In the new arrangement, the Government is licensing the existing payroll software – wasn’t the software part of the problem?

“That’s a good question and I’m pleased I have the opportunity to clear up the confusion around this. The actual ‘system’ is no longer the issue that it was immediately after go-live. Back then, and for some months after that, we spent a lot of time fixing defects and problems that were having an impact on people’s pay. Although some issues remain, we are over that hump now. The fortnightly payroll has stabilised, and that in itself is a very clear signal that the system has stabilised, producing fewer problems than in the past. Further changes and fixes are needed – we’ve been very open about that. These changes will be implemented steadily and they will make the system easier for school administrators to operate in the long-run. We are committed to providing the extra resources necessary for further development of the system – the new company will have this as a priority.”

Q: How will the company be managed?

“The government-owned company will be run by a board of directors who will report to the company’s shareholding Ministers. The board will be responsible for recruiting a chief executive, chief operating officer, and other roles critical to the running of the company. Good progress is being made in meeting the formal requirements of the new company before the transfer on October 17.”

Q: How do you feel about the change?

“We are all excited by the opportunities that the change gives us to improve the service. We all want a payroll system that pays our teachers and school support staff correctly, on time, every time. I am confident that the move to a government owned company is a step in that direction.”

Q: Finally, what about your preparations for the End of Year/Start of Year (EoYSoY) pay periods?

“A dedicated work programme for EoY/SoY is well underway. I’m very conscious that no one wants a repeat of the issues that arose at the peak processing time for SoY at the beginning of this year. We were not adequately prepared for the large volume of administrative work that was involved, and it created problems. We can’t let that happen again. This year, we are working on a number of improvements to make it easier for schools to communicate the payroll changes they need to the service centre to ensure we don’t have significant pay-impacting issues. Schools will again get intensive support and training; we’re improving usability of some of the manual form instructions; and this time round, Start-of-Year screens will be open for a lot longer, so schools have more time to enter SoY information online. There are more improvements in store. Before all of these changes go live, they will be road-tested by sector representatives drawn from a pool of volunteers who have, very helpfully, been giving us their time and feedback over the past few months. Their input has been invaluable.”

BY Cathy Magiannis
Ministry of Education,

Posted: 11:58 am, 8 September 2014

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