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Banker models school on East End primary

UNTIL RECENTLY, Peter Ferres was a high-flying investment banker in London.

He advised Chrysler during the Daimler-Chrysler merger in 1998 and helped Adidas, the sportswear giant, to go public on the German stock exchange.

Yet 18 months ago Mr Ferres, a 47-year-old German national, decided to swap boardroom meetings and first-class business travel for a UK teacher training course at London University's Institute of Education and practical experience in London primaries.

His course is now nearing completion, as is his personal dream of running his own international seat of learning. The Metropolitan school in Frankfurt, a kindergarten-cum-primary, will open in August.

"London's an ideal training ground for setting up a truly international school," Mr Ferres said. "There are 410 languages spoken here and a dozen spoken by kids in my primary class, for instance."

It was showing deprived schoolchildren in Tower Hamlets, east London, how to apply for jobs and college places that made him turn his back on the world of finance and train as a teacher in the UK, where he has been living for the past four years.

Now he intends to export his newly acquired knowledge to his mother country. The demand for private education is on the increase in Germany since the country scored poorly in the first round of Pisa tests, which compare education internationally, in 2000.

He is getting prominent support from his sister, Veronica Ferres, a famous stage, film and television actress in Germany. She will sit on the new school's advisory board in charge of parental affairs.

His school will teach the International Baccalaureate primary years programme combined with selected elements of the primary curriculum laid down by regional education authorities.

At the Metropolitan school, UK, Australian and US staff will work in teams of two to each class, to enable teachers to provide special enrichment courses or give individual support, depending on children's abilities.

There will be lessons in German, but with an 80 per cent emphasis on English, not least because many of the school's new recruits have English as a second language.

"I believe in true immersion in a language rather than a 5050 bilingual approach," said Mr Ferres.

He has good reasons for saying so. His own sons, the only German speakers at their London school when they started there aged 4 and 8, started to read and write fluent English after just one year and are now fully bilingual.

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