Connor Powell gets up at 5am every morning to catch a train and two buses from Papatoetoe to Vanguard Military School in Rosedale.
"It's worth it - you just have a little sleep on the train," the 16-year-old says.
The newly opened charter school is sponsored by military prep school Advance Training Centres.
Connor wants to be an army medic and came to Vanguard for the military training.
"Even when they yell at you it teaches you good discipline. Sometimes people get angry but it teaches you just to take it," he says.
Talking in class, leaning back on a chair or chewing gum will see students on the ground doing press-ups.
Jason Smith, 17, says he needs the discipline because he slacked off at his previous school and used his phone during classes.
"I wanted to come here because they actually make us do work."
Jason now wants to be Vanguard's first head boy, works two part-time jobs outside of school and has stopped being "a little brat" to his parents, he says.
The school has a teacher-student ratio of one to 12.
Vanguard has seven registered teachers for core NCEA subjects and three unregistered staff who take courses like physical training and engineering.
It caters for 108 students in year 11 and year 12, and plans to expand next year to include year 13.
Principal Rockley Montgomery says the first two weeks of school have been fantastic and they have already received positive feedback from parents.
One mother emailed to say her son is a different boy since he started classes.
"He is completely engaged at home and at school. He has a sense of self-worth, an understanding that he can achieve," she wrote.
Mr Montgomery says he did not expect to have "100 per cent of the students paying attention in 100 per cent of the classes" so quickly, but they are "literally glued to what is going on.
"And this is only two weeks, imagine when it's been two years."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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