Service academies and student transitions : an exploratory study

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Coughlan, Tony
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Educational Leadership and Management
Unitec Institute of Technology
Benseman, John
Howse, Jo
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
service academies
military education
secondary schools
school to work transition
vocational education
New Zealand Defence Force
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Coughlan, T. (2013) Service academies and student transitions : an exploratory study. Unpublished thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Educational Leadership and Management.
Service Academies are vocationally-focussed courses run in New Zealand secondary schools. They have a military style teaching and learning environment, and were initiated with the intention of helping students who were at risk of not achieving, in a very structured environment. Students seeking recruitment into the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and other uniformed government services also take part in the course to gain relevant skills and experience. The first course was set up in 1999, and since then there have been several expansions, resulting in twenty-six academies currently operating nationwide. This qualitative research sought the opinions of academy directors and ex-students on the efficacy of the course and its effect on the transition to employment or other outcomes. Research questions guiding the study considered the educational strategies and leadership practices that support the academies, the factors students and their course directors perceive as leading to successful engagement with the programmes and ways of further developing Service Academies to enhance student outcomes. Academy directors and exstudents were surveyed to produce data on the course and its effect on student transitions to employment. There were significant similarities in the responses from staff and ex-students, showing they valued many of the same elements of the courses and had a shared vision of effective ways of transitioning students. The questionnaire and interview responses were mainly very positive, with a lot of emphasis placed on the beneficial nature of the military-style learning environment and the effect of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) ethos and culture in the academies. The key areas identified for improvement were the external leadership of the programmes, particularly from the Ministry of Education, and the need for an organised programme to support new staff setting up academies, as well as existing staff. Desired elements of this programme included a central resource bank of classroom and assessment material as well as administrative templates. The opportunity for students to achieve NCEA credits through the academies also needs more work, and needs clear communication between the Ministry, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), the academies and the NZDF. Finally, there is a need for clear pathways of professional learning and development for academy directors, most of whom are not trained teachers to enable them to support students as effectively as possible.
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