This week has been a quiet one for Hekia Parata. The minister would have been hoping for education to stay out of the headlines but the media have directed their questions in the direction of the Christchurch reshuffle and the new Education Ministry payroll contract providers Novopay. Also this week the Education Amendment Bill was introduced to parliament.
The new Novopay system has been running for eight weeks, which is four pay cycles. The Ministry have reported they are happy with the system and are successfully paying nearly 90,000 people correctly. On a Campbell Live item on Monday the ministry spokesperson Leanne Gibson expected there to be less than a hundred errors on the cycle that occurred Wednesday. The ministry spin backfired somewhat on Friday night when the programme said one school had told them they had one hundred errors for their staff and many others were being emailed in following the previous item. Campbell Live ended their Friday item by asking teachers and school staff to email them with their Novopay issues.
There is growing concern in Christchurch following the release of plans for a major reorganisation of schools in the city. Principals and schools communities are worried there is not going to be enough consultation time to fully go through the issues before the cut off date. On Monday the Press reported on continued problems surrounding the data the Education Ministry had given schools with further information released this week – well after the initial announcement of the plan. The union for primary school teachers – the NZEI – is saying the ministry should have released all the information at the start of the process and is calling on the government to reverse the ‘sham consultation process’. The Press also reported the NZEI were asking the Christchurch City Council to get involved. They say even though only 38 schools are involved, the whole city will be affected by the proposals.
The first reading of the Education Amendment Bill took place in parliament on Tuesday. Paving the way for charter schools (or as the government now calls them ‘partnership schools’) this new legislation raised a number of questions. The New Zealand Herald summed up one with the headline Education Amendment Bill Exempts Sponsors From Public Accountability in which they highlighted the fact that charter schools will be exempt from scrutiny under the Official Information Act and the Ombudsman’s Office. The secondary teachers’ union, the PPTA, were hugely critical of the bill saying the government ‘shunted it out at 5pm‘ because they were too ashamed of the content to release it earlier in the day. The term double bunking is now in the vernacular, referring to two schools running on the same site at different times in the day. The PPTA said this was fine following the Christchurch earthquake but it was fraught with difficulty.
Public scrutiny will be one of the main hurdles the government will face trying to attract ‘sponsors’ to their partnership schools. Privately owned companies have very different attitudes to accountability and openness when compared to the public sector.
Until next time – enjoy your teaching week. Hopefully there’s not too much assessment for you.