Inclusivity and the Education of Children of Defence Forces Personnel: Exploring the Impact of Mobility and Interrupted Schooling

Inclusivity and the Education of Children of Defence Forces Personnel: Exploring the Impact of Mobility and Interrupted Schooling

Ros Baumann (University of Southern Queensland, Australia) and Henriette van Rensburg (University of Southern Queensland, Australia)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2901-0.ch003
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Australian Defence Force (ADF) members' children present as a unique subpopulation of students. These students often experience schooling interruption as a result of posting (relocation) mobility inherent within the service requirements of their ADF parents. This chapter explores the impact of such mobility and interrupted schooling on educational achievement. Educational achievement consists of two key aspects: Social-emotional outcomes and Academic outcomes. Social-emotional outcomes are currently supported through the Defence Support Mentor (DSM) program. Academic outcomes are examined through the lens of Reading/Literacy testing results and Mathematics testing results. Academic achievement for ADF children impacted by mobility and schooling interruption remains largely unexplored within the Australian context. A conceptual framework is presented, which identifies potential causes of negative impacts upon ADF students' academic achievement.
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Australian Defence Force (ADF) members children face unique impacts to their educational achievement. These unique impacts form the basis of the argument that ADF children should be identified as a sub-population of students in need of special educational consideration. Such consideration arises as a result of forced, non-structural mobility and thus schooling interruption, linked to the service requirements of their serving member parents. Military students with diagnosed special needs often require more specialized educational consideration (Classen, Horn, & Palmer, 2019). Consideration of military children with such diagnosed special needs and their educational achievement, is limited within the literature (Russo & Fallon, 2015). Whilst this area deserves close examination, students with diagnosed special needs falls outside the boundaries of the current chapter, which will commence examining educational achievement needs of military children through a mainstream lens and the impacts they experience as a result of their unique Defence lifestyle challenges. It is hoped that beginning with this focus will lead to future examination of the educational needs of military children with diagnosed special needs.

Mobility is an issue that affects many sub-groups of children such as circus/entertainer groups and culturally mobile populations such as traveller cultures /nomadic cultures (References). For military families, mobility and its impacts are common for countries with large military establishments such as Canada, UK, US and Australia (Guthier, 2016; Macdonald, 2016; Smrekar & Owens, 2008). With mobility a commonly experienced phenomena in the military, an increased awareness of mobility impacts on academic achievement highlights the need for appropriate educational consideration and support strategies. Within Australia, addressing educational achievement impact through an academic lens and a social-emotional lens is paramount due to the impacts and compounding academic delays ADF children may experience as a result of the unique aspects of the military lifestyle.

A conceptual framework which encapsulates the unique ADF lifestyle cause of mobility: the posting process further highlights the interconnectedness of family stability impacts upon schooling choice and thus access to academic supports is presented. This framework forms the basis of an examination of the current supports available to ADF children and explores the current academic support model of external private tutoring for academic support and the limitations of such a model. The need for special educational consideration and inclusive pedagogical practices to support ADF children are also highlighted, including recommendations for future research and practice. The following chapter aims to illuminate the impacts of mobility on educational achievement for military children and their special educational support needs which require inclusive support strategies and pedagogical practice.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is a tri-service force comprised of some 80,000 members from The Royal Navy, Australian Army and The Royal Australian Airforce and associated Reserve Forces (Baumann, 2016; Department of Defence, 2016). An institution of considerable size, members who ‘sign-up’ for a career within the ADF do so with an understanding of the unique and significant challenges a ‘Defence lifestyle’ may entail. Such challenges are often also experienced by the families’ of Defence members, including mobility, deployments, member absence from home, family unit isolation, education of children and mental health of Defence families - particularly surrounding war (Bull, 1999; Jagger & Lederer, 2014; Macdonald, 2016; Russo & Fallon, 2015; Tunac de Pedro, Astor Avi, Benbenishty, Estrada, Dejoie, Smith, & Esquada, 2011). One such unique feature of the ADF, is the manner in which it dictates that members provide unrestricted service – including compliance with policy directions such as frequent relocation through posting orders (Department of Defence, Milpersman, 2013). Provision of this unrestricted service is noted by defence policy for its potentially “disruptive effect on family life, particularly in regard to a child’s education and the employment/career prospects for spouses/partners.” (Department of Defence, Milperspman, Part II, 2013, p.48).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Educational Achievement: Overall social-emotional and academic achievement of ADF children.

Mobility: Relocation, including residential and schooling for a serving member or ADF family as a result of a posting order.

Serving Member: ADF service member.

Key Stage: A key developmental period of time within education, usually spanning a 2-year period.

Structural Mobility: Mobility experienced at developmentally normative periods of time – i.e. progression from Primary to High school, or at the end of a key stage of education.

Academic Achievement: Literacy/Reading results and Mathematics testing results.

Defence Support Mentor (DSM): School-based support program facilitated by the Defence Community Organization and Department(s) of Education nationwide.

Posting: ADF promulgated order stating the location of service for the Member. Often includes geographical relocation in order to fulfil the ordered service requirement.

Non-Structural Mobility: Mobility experienced at developmentally non-normative periods of time – i.e. during a school year or within a key stage of education.

Australian Defence Force (ADF): Encompasses tri-serivces of Australian Army, Royal Navy and Royal Australian Airforce.

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