Swedish schools system may have a place in Scotland

19th March 2010 at 00:00

As Education Secretary Michael Russell returns from his fact-finding mission to Sweden, it is timely to note that Kunskapsskolan, the country's largest supplier of independent schools, is making progress in setting up 30 schools in England.

The scheme, backed by the Tories and the Labour Government, envisages that greater choice will be made available to parents, regardless of income.

There are sound reasons why Scotland should take up the model, under which private firms, charities and parents' groups could claim central government funding to run schools. Teachers would have more freedom to develop innovative methods and contribute more to school policies.

Another Swedish feature that could suit Scotland is the voucher system, supported by the Scottish Tories - perhaps with an eye to introducing the independently-run schemes through the back door.

Parents can already express a preference in Scotland about which school their child attends, but education authorities do not have to accept it, especially if a school is oversubscribed. Vouchers would allow parents more choice if linked to policies paving the way for new schools to open.

Too often, decisions are made by bureaucrats concerned only with finding a place, irrespective of where it is and the school's standards of attainment.

Dr Richard Willis, School of Education, Roehampton University.

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