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Happy to stick with the state

SWEDEN

Staffan and Karin Grundmark are bewildered that Tony Blair is enamoured by Swedish independent schools. "They're too new. You never know if they're going to go bust," says Karin, a mother of three. "Besides, lots of independent schools are run by people who don't have any teaching experience. They're business people."

The Grundmarks, who are both well-educated and live in TAby, an upper-middle-class suburb north of Stockholm, have three children who all attend state schools. "We're very happy with our choices," says Staffan.

"You know what to expect with a state school."

Choosing schools for their children, however, has been a difficult task.

With Anna, 12, about to start secondary school, they have been inundated with prospectuses from schools. "It's very stressful," admits Karin. "Even when you ride the subway there are advertisements for schools."

Independent schools certainly seem to be getting their message across to children. Anna says: "Nearly half the kids in my year are switching to the new international school that's opening up in TAby in August." They like the idea of being taught in English 50 per cent of the time.

Even though the Grundmarks' children go to state schools - Nils, 10, switched to a state school specialising in music last year - they have still had to choose which school they attend. "Our (right-wing) local authority doesn't mind if it's a state or independent or if you go outside the catchment area," says Karin.

Left-wing authorities, on the other hand, often only allow a child to attend a state school outside their jurisdiction if the national programme they want to take is not available locally.

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