Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009

London set for Swedish schools

By Angela Harrison
Education reporter, BBC News

Academies are seen as a main vehicle for driving up standards

A private Swedish company is to open two new Academies in England.

Kunskapsskolan, which runs 32 schools in Sweden, has been accepted by Richmond Council as sponsor of two schools which will become Academies.

Academies are government-funded schools which are run independently. The government in England sees them as a vehicle for driving up standards.

The Conservatives are also keen on the "Swedish model" of education, with its emphasis on personal learning.

Richmond Council has voted for Hampton Community College and Whitton School to be run as Academies by Kunskapsskolan from autumn next year.

The plans will go before ministers for final approval in the next few weeks.

It will be the first time the company has been formally approved to operate schools in England.

Councillor Malcolm Eady, from Richmond Council, said: "The Academies programme is all about improving our schools and in terms of education, these are the most important decisions this administration has made.

"Both schools have been improving but this will enable them to become genuine centres of excellence."

'Personalised learning'

Steve Bolingbroke, managing director of Kunskapsskolan UK, said: "We are delighted that the Academy plans have been approved.

"Over the last 21 months we have worked with parents, staff and students at both schools to shape the final proposals.

"The level of support we received through the consultation is a vote of confidence in the current staff at the schools and in our plans for the future. We are looking forward to working with the two schools to create an inspiring style of personalised learning for the young people of the borough."

The way the scheme will work is that Kunskapsskolan will set up a charitable trust, the "Learning Schools Trust" to manage the academies, with the council, as co-sponsor, sitting on its board.

One of its distinguishing features is the emphasis its schools put on personalised learning - something championed by the Westminster government.

Each student in Kunskapsskolan schools has a personal tutor responsible for his or her academic progress and pastoral care whom they meet every week to discuss their progress, goals and any additional support they need.

The company says its schools "provide a flexible curriculum and timetable that is adapted to meet the different learning needs of each student".

The atmosphere in the schools is one that develops high aspirations, positive relationships and student responsibility for their learning and community

On a consultation document prepared by the council, Kunskapsskolan says: "The atmosphere in the schools is one that develops high aspirations, positive relationships and student responsibility for their learning and community".

Kunskapsskolan has plans to open more schools in England so the Richmond schools would provide a good showcase.

Academies have much more freedom than other state schools in that they do not have to follow the national curriculum or national agreements on the pay and conditions of teachers.

The Conservatives have championed the "Swedish model" of schools for England, believing that the key to improving standards is to free schools from the control of government and to allow parents and other groups to set up schools.

The Academies are due to open in September on the existing sites, but with new names and uniforms.

Richmond Council says the buildings will be modified, but plans are not yet finalised.

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