Charter School Investigation: Vanguard Military School Part Two

In my new series investigating Vanguard Military School I once again ask the questions and report back the answers without spin. Today’s article is based on the second part of my interview with Vanguard chief executive, Nick Hyde as well as a shorter interview with Vanguard Principal, Rockley Montgomery.

A hand up. PHOTO: Vanguard Military School Facebook Page

A hand up.
PHOTO: Vanguard Military School Facebook Page

One of the criticisms is that you are stealing students away from other schools. Luring them with free uniforms et cetera but some of your students are ones that State schools have given up on anyway.

They have failed there already. Would you keep your child in a school where they had just failed? We have kids travel from Waiuku South. They are making a conscious choice to come here. It is not the lure of uniforms and things like that it is the environment we are giving them. It’s the fact that if your son or daughter doesn’t turn up by 8.30am we have rung you to ask why. We are monitoring everything. It is an ‘Old School’ mentality. You are not suddenly going to find out that your son or daughter has skipped three weeks of classes, you are going to know on day one.


A board in the Staffroom records all absences as well as the reason for absence at Vanguard Military School.

Do you follow the New Zealand curriculum?

Absolutely yes.

Students from Vanguard Military School. PHOTO- Vanguard facebook page

Students from Vanguard Military School.
PHOTO- Vanguard facebook page

A lot of misinformation out there is that you are not teaching what is taught in State schools. Obviously you cannot do all the extras like Spanish but you are still following the curriculum?

Yes we teach at level one Maths, English, P.E and Science which are all compulsory subjects. They then choose an elective out of Engineering, Maori or History. Obviously we tailor make our History to be Military History, New Zealand’s battles and what we have done. We also run an R.D.C or Recruit Development Course. This is where we teach them Financial literacy and have adventure based learning activities. We teach them how to be a decent person, sometimes drivers licenses, sometimes computing skills, practical things. How to do a job interview, things that they need.

Not every kid at our school is going to go on to level 3 or go to University. At some point they have to exit the system. How are they going to cope with a job interview? We make sure they are prepared.

And a C.V?


So that is the level one curriculum. It is very narrow bread and butter subjects. Level two is a little more flexible, again Maths, English and P.E are all compulsory. They can then choose between Biology, Defence Force studies, History, Maori and Engineering. They can choose two of these. Defence Force studies is teaching them things like the rank structure, navigation. These are kids thinking of going on to the Defence Forces.

Lastly at level three again it is a pretty narrow curriculum. You are either doing a University Entrance pathway or a vocational pathway.

So do you work quite closely with the Defence forces?

We don’t work that closely because they can’t be seen to endorse anyone in particular. However we have several good links now. A large number of kids have now sat and passed their entrance test. We have already put several students through and they happened to be our Section leaders and Prefects. They have been our top students in Engineering, actually our Head girl went in from last year. It won’t take long until the Defence force sees the calibre of recruits coming out of here.

We understand that our job is not to train them to be military, it is to train them so when they get there, they are already at a level that they will pass Basic training no worries at all. It is also a challenge for kids doing level 3 for us to say we want you to be Officers now, not just combat trades. Again it is that high expectations and that is what we are trying to instill in every single kid.

Comments on Vanguard Military School's facebook page. Screenshot-Whaleoil.conz

Comments on Vanguard Military School’s facebook page.

I saw on your facebook page that kids are actually leaving and going into paid work.

Yeah that is a criticism. The school roll is dropping.

The Green Party has attacked the Government’s charter school policy after one school’s roll dropped by a quarter this year – but Vanguard Military School says that’s because its students have qualified and moved on to other courses.


They have got their qualification and we have moved them into something productive. Maybe it is a hangover from my P.T.E career but to me that is exactly what schools should be doing. What is the point of holding you for an extra three or four months at school when you have got your qualification and you are just going to muck around when you could have joined the Army or gone on an Apprenticeship?

What are your class sizes?

It ranges from 12 to 18 maximum in academic subjects.

So is P.E larger?

No, P.T ( Physical Training ) is larger. P.T is our Military style training. It is a disciplined P.T. your sit ups, press ups, medicine balls, you carry logs.

Physical training at Vanguard Military school. PHOTO-Vanguard Facebook page

Physical training at Vanguard Military school.
PHOTO-Vanguard Facebook page

Physical training at Vanguard Military school. PHOTO-Vanguard Facebook page

Physical training at Vanguard Military school.
PHOTO-Vanguard Facebook page

P.E ( Physical Education ) is an academic subject. Yes you play Touch Rugby and Volley ball to show the skills but it is the anatomy and physiology and things like that.

Is P.T ( Physical Training ) compulsory?

Yes, it is about building self discipline, self worth, self esteem and obviously cutting down a lot of their size, teaching them how to eat properly. A lot of these kids are chiseled, they have abs, they are very physical and and run things like 14 on the BT test. They love it.

Vanguard Military school student doing Physical Training. PHOTO- Vanguard Military school facebook page

Vanguard Military school student doing Physical Training.
PHOTO- Vanguard Military school facebook page

A lot of the kids who don’t enjoy it to start with have to work hard at the start but then they see the rewards. It’s teaching them to push through their comfort zone and then it comes back into the classroom. It is the mental fortitude that we are trying to teach the kids.

How are your teachers paid in comparison to State schools?

The attitude that the board and myself have is we pay them what we think they are worth to the school so great teachers can earn very well.

So they negotiate their own salaries?

Yes, it is an individual contract.  I think one of the problems we saw in aligning to the collective agreement was that although there are teachers who through their experience are very valuable to every school and its students there are also teachers who are new to teaching, maybe in their first few years who are also full of passion and drive for our type of model and are worth more than what that agreement states.  On the flip side there are teachers who just because they have worked another year may not have improved so why reward them?  Coming from a business background you pay your staff what you think they are worth.

Are all your teachers registered teachers?

No they are not. The reason for that is we have some subjects that I believe a non-registered teacher provides a better fit.

Like P.T?

Like P.T exactly and Defence Force studies. I can’t have a teacher going in there saying, “This is the rank structure, this is the equipment, this is the air and sea navigation” and then a student asks,  “Excuse me Staff, were you ever in the Army, Navy or Airforce? “Have you ever been to Waiouru or the Devonport Naval Base?” “How many of your ex-students have joined up?” I have ex Defence Force personnel teaching that subject. They have been there they have done it. They have seen things and done things that the kids can relate to.

Vanguard Military School students Marching. PHOTO-Vanguard Military School Facebook page

Vanguard Military School students marching.
PHOTO-Vanguard Military School Facebook page

That makes sense, but the core subjects, they are all registered?

Absolutely, Maths, English, Science, History, Maori, Biology and PE.

Engineering, I think virtually every school in the country has an L.A.T, some one who is not a teacher but has an Engineering background.We have an Engineering staff member here who is ex Defence Force from the Air Force. He is an Aircraft engineer so that is where we use unregistered teachers.


Principal – Rockley Montgomery B.A (ED),  Physical Education UPE Post Grad Certificate in Gifted and Talented Education 20 + years teaching experience PHOTO-Vanguard Military school Facebook page

Principal – Rockley Montgomery
B.A (ED), Physical Education UPE
Post Grad Certificate in Gifted and Talented Education
20 + years teaching experience
PHOTO-Vanguard Military school Facebook page


Vanguard Military School Principal Rockley Montgomery, has known CEO Nick Hyde since they both worked at New Zealand’s largest secondary school, Rangitoto College many years ago. With a common interest in Sport they became friends and stayed in touch after Nick Hyde moved on to start A.T.C Military Prep School. On many occasions they discussed  how his school was going and all the ‘ woes ‘ of education, so when Nick offered Rockley the position as Principal of Vanguard Rockley said…

It was a case of well, you have been talking about it for years you can’t back off now. You have got to prove those things you were saying are actually good.

Do you teach as well as act as Principal?

Yes, last year I had a timetabled class. Now we have a teacher that has left and gone to Australia for personal reasons and there are a few loose ends. I look after one of those loose ends.

What do you think your school offers that State Schools don’t?

First of all as a Principal it is quite unique in some ways as there are not many Principal’s who get the opportunity to actually develop the real essence of the educational aspects. You know, you move into a school and you run the school within a system that already exists.That system will mutate and change over time…

but very rarely do you get a chance to come in at grass roots and actually build the system.

I am bringing a lot of my experience from before I got to New Zealand, having taught in what has just been rated as the second best school in Africa, King Edward the seventh school for boys. When I arrived in New Zealand in the beginning it was a case of this is great but this, not so good.

You get to evaluate different parts of the systems and this is the opportunity to take the best of what you see over there plus what you know works over here and put them all together.

Would it be fair to say South African schools are more disciplined and there is more respect for teachers?

Well now I don’t know. I have been out of there for twenty years. I couldn’t judge. What I can say is that when I taught there discipline wasn’t an issue in a classroom. It was a case of come on in and start teaching. Teachers could focus on actual work. The class make up wasn’t affected by bad behaviour, it was just dependent on the level of development of the kids.

Next week same time same day we will hear from the teachers at 
Vanguard in the third article of this Charter School 
Investigation series.

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