Charter School investigation: The teachers


Engineering class room, Students and teacher at Vanguard Military school

Here we have staff who give up their lunch times, their morning teas, they work what used to be their holidays. Why? Because we want the students to achieve. That is the carrot. It is not anything personal, it is a rewarding job to have but it is to see the kids that are struggling get across the line.

-Nick Hyde Vanguard Military School chief executive

The teachers at Vanguard were not put into their classrooms immediately after being hired. They were trained for a term before they were allowed to teach their classes solo. This was to ensure that they knew all of Vanguard’s rules and ways of doing things so that their approach to student teaching and management would always be consistent. Additionally the selection of teachers was not solely based on their academic and teaching ability. They also had to be supportive of the Military model concept as they had to not only follow the model but be role models themselves in how they present themselves and act.

Seven teachers answered my questions at Vanguard Military school so I have included a selection of  the most interesting responses to my questions.

Why did you want to work at Vanguard Military School?

I was involved with the owners and the Hyde family which ran Advance Training Centres over the past nine years. I felt that I had been part of the foundation of Vanguard and have always been excited about the philosophy and vision of the Hyde family and wanted to see if it could lead in a new pathway for education.

I wanted to work here because I believe in the school model and after having done placement at the school I could see the positive impact it was having on the students.

I was interested to see if the military concept would be a viable option for students who had up to this time struggled to succeed in state schools.

Quote on the wall of Vanguard Military school

Quote on the wall of Vanguard Military school

Have you worked in State school before?

Five of the teachers had previously worked in a State School.One of them was a new teacher who had done placement in three State schools before accepting their first teaching position at Vanguard. Their fourth placement had been at Vanguard.

Two had not.

If you have worked in a state school before what would be the main differences between the two that you have noticed for both you as a teacher and for students?

Economies of scale with less student numbers, smaller buildings and less facilities such as green space. However there is greater student contact and more of a family feel to the school. The students are more demanding and challenging due to their backgrounds and previous teaching experiences. However their expressions of gratitude are overwhelming and beyond what I have experienced in my teaching career.

Small but attractive outdoor area at Vanguard Military school.

Small but attractive outdoor area at Vanguard Military school.

For the students I strongly believe this Charter school is more student focused than the state schools I have worked at. For the staff I believe the communication is better and we focus more on the nuts and bolts of education. Pastoral care and achievement are valued equally.

Students have a closer, more immediate relationship with their teachers. With smaller classes they get more individualised attention. They don’t ‘ get lost ‘ in the system. They are not intimidated by the academic achievements of all the bright students in the class as most of them find some aspect challenging. There are immediate and guaranteed consequences for poor behaviour. As a teacher you have a better understanding of the challenges each student faces in their lives outside of school. There is the opportunity for greater flexibility in the design of courses and choices of standards.

For the teacher there is far less admin. Less waste of my time on pointless PD. I am making a difference in students’ lives. Students have a closer bond with the teacher. It is a more holistic approach to their education. The school is like their extended family.

A difference is that here the systems and protocols that are in place are very clear which I believe eliminates any grey areas for confusion for both staff and students. At Vanguard it is expected that all systems and protocols that have been put in place by the school are followed at all times by staff members and students to ensure we have consistency across the school. I believe this eliminates any confusion and potential frustrations and conflict that I have seen in other schools. The biggest difference I have noticed is the focus on family at Vanguard. The school is focused on creating a very close family environment for the staff and students. I believe this is achieved through the set up of the sections and the time staff get to spend with their sections during RDC and intersection competitions. A lot of our students come from very dysfunctional families and having a school that they consider to be their family has a hugely positive impact on their attitude and effort put into school.

Inter-section competition score board Vanguard Military school.

Inter-section competition score board Vanguard Military school.

What do you like most about working at Vanguard Military school?

I like seeing the youth change in the way they think, to be more respectful of others and more aware that they too can achieve whatever they desire. I also enjoy the collegiality amongst staff as we all have common ground in wanting to change lives and that is a powerful driver.

What I like most is that the school is able to set up systems and protocols outside of the normal state school way of doing things that work for our students. Having seen so many students in other schools falling through the cracks due to lack of discipline and structure in the school environment was of real concern. At Vanguard to see students literally turn their lives around and begin to become productive, successful students is what it is all about.

The simplicity in the subject choices and the ability to run your curriculum to suit the ability of the students. Based on a military style of school having physical training and drill gives the students a chance to burn off steam and build cohesion and discipline through drill.

Basketball Military style at Vanguard Military School

Basketball Military style at Vanguard Military School

Having the opportunity  to work with a set of students from different areas around Auckland and elsewhere and getting to know them well. We also as a Charter school can control our own autonomy firstly in relation to our own departments and the overall direction of how we wish our students to be like when they leave our school.

What do you like least about working at Vanguard Military School?

The negative media about the school from people who have not/will not come in and see how the school is operating.

Not enjoying all the negative comments and bias against concepts of Charter schools. I feel there is a need to provide a different alternative for our students with special needs that our mainstream schools can’t provide such as lower teacher student ratios, options of progression within year levels and career pathways.

An example of negative media coverage of Vanguard Military school can be read here. The school’s roll had dropped because students had gained their qualifications before the end of the year and had moved on to other courses.This was described as a negative thing by Green Party education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty.

The negativity from the general public that cannot see the changes we have made in young people’s lives.

It would have to be that there are so many people out in the public that are very miss informed about charter schools. Unfortunately there are a lot of people that do not actually realise what a positive difference Vanguard is making to so many young lives.

Dealing with student behaviour can be wearisome some weeks.

Classroom Vanguard Military School

Classroom Vanguard Military School

 Is your teaching performance evaluated in any way?

Yes, the same appraisal method as a state school.

Yes all our assessment material is moderated by our colleagues out in other schools and by ERO. We also have internal visits to our classes by our upper management team and our results are monitored by our board of Trustees.

Yes we have teacher evaluations by the Principal and my subject assessments have been verified by a teacher in the same field as me at another well-established college.

If you previously taught in a State school was your performance evaluated in any way there?

Yes similar process there as well.

Framed photo on the wall of Vanguard Military school.

Framed photo on the wall of Vanguard Military school.

Do you feel supported in your role at this school?

Yes very much so.

Yes I have total autonomy over my department and my requests for courses and professional development have all been approved and supported.

Absolutely, there is a huge amount of support here at Vanguard.

I am one of the un-registered teachers and I feel that I am on the same playing field as a registered teacher and have every opportunity for support from the people above.

Yes, I have been given an assistant teacher whose secondary background is mechanical, to assist me in the larger class size that I take. In my subject of Engineering, where it can be difficult to assist and monitor all of the students, my needs have been met. Generally all the teaching staff act as one team at Vanguard.

If you previously taught in a State school did you feel supported as a teacher in your role there?

Sometimes. Senior management seemed unaware of the difficulties of the job and made unreasonable demands. The workload was unreasonable.

I would say yes for about 90% of the time. I do feel that I am more supported/valued here than I was at my previous school.

Yes similar support in State schools as well.

To an extent.

The Vanguard workroom is designed to facilitate communicate between the different departments

The Vanguard workroom is designed to facilitate communication between the different departments

Are there training and up-skilling opportunities for you at this school?

Every one of the seven teachers interviewed replied ‘yes’ to this question.

Last year I attended an NZQA workshop on ‘ judgement decisions’. Most weeks we also have professional development to bring us up to speed with any NZQA changes and to ensure we are following our school procedures. Last year I had the Industry ITO in twice to check that Vanguard is operating and assessing the students in a professional manner.

If you previously taught in a State school were there training and up-skilling opportunities for you there?

All five teachers who had previously taught in State Schools replied ‘yes’ to this question.

Yes, no issues with professional development opportunities in my State schools as well.


Teacher and students at Vanguard Military school.

Next week we will hear from the students of Vanguard.

In the mean time have a listen to this Radio NZ interview with mothers of Charter school students from South Auckland Middle school and Vanguard Military school. Whaleoil even gets a mention.


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