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School-Based Support for Students with a Parent on Military Deployment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 April 2016

Gail Macdonald
Department of Education, James Cook University, Douglas Townsville Queensland, Townsville, Queensland, Australia


Parental deployment to a war zone brings many changes to family life. Changes in family roles and routines unsettle children and interfere with their educational engagement. Defence School Transition Aides (DSTAs) are employed in qualifying Australian schools to assist students from Australian Defence Force (ADF) families to manage transitions associated with a parental deployment to a war zone. Reported here are findings from a study that explored parents’, teachers’ and DSTAs’ perspectives of school-based support designed to assist students to cope with their changed circumstances when a parent is deployed. Results indicate that an appreciation of students’ worries by school personnel eased their distress. DSTAs facilitated processes whereby peers with deployed parents supported each other. Alerting teachers to an intended deployment was also found to be important as it allowed them to be alert to student behaviour changes and prepare ahead for possible student support needs. DSTAs reminded parents through school newsletters to pass on pertinent deployment-related information to the school so that a coordinated school–family approach for supporting students could be enacted. Further research is required to investigate the educational significance of student support offered by culturally aware key adults and student peers during major life transitions.

Copyright © The Author(s) 2016 

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