Scotland - Minister sets his heart on Swedish model

26th March 2010 at 00:00

The scottish education minister has taken what could be one of the most significant steps yet to extend parent power, opening up the intriguing prospect of a parliamentary alliance with the Conservatives.

Michael Russell ended his two-day fact-finding mission to Finland and Sweden this week determined to bring together Scottish local authorities and Swedish free schools, of which the Tories are leading proponents. He said he found a school near Stockholm set up by two mothers "very impressive".

Accompanied throughout his visit by TES Scotland, Mr Russell went on Tuesday to the Viktor Rydberg gymnasium, minutes from the Swedish capital, which he said was "outgoing and educationally open".

He added: "The school was populated by intelligent and gifted young people, which drove the gifted, talented and motivated teachers."

Scotland does not fully understand the concept of free schools, Mr Russell believes. "To understand free school as private schools is entirely wrong," he commented.

"They are not in any sense private schools, as we understand them. They do not charge fees - they get paid per capita in the same way other schools are paid. They are state schools provided by somebody else."

He urged Scottish local authorities interested in the model to contact him. "We will help make the connection with Stockholm and they can see how it might work for them," he said.

Mr Russell stressed he was not committed to pursuing the model, but it was "worth discussing", he said.

"Is there room in the system for different ideas? Already we have Catholic denominational schools. It's an interesting possibility."

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