Education Letters: Richmond and the Swedish model

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The Independent Online

In your article on the Swedish schools model ("DIY learning? Not here, thanks" EDUCATION & CAREERS, 9 October), your writer makes several incorrect statements. It is twice stated that Richmond Council has given the go-ahead for Kunskapsskolan to take over Hampton Community College and Whitton School. This is not the case. What we have approved are the Expression of Interest documents, which outline the proposal for those schools to become Kunskapsskolan-sponsored academies.

But there is a significant number of issues that will need to be resolved before we will actually proceed to implementation.

Chief among these is how the Kunskapsskolan model of learning will be adapted to the demands of the national curriculum. Improving our secondary schools is a key priority for this council, and no agreement will be finalised with any sponsor until we are absolutely sure that educational and pastoral needs for our pupils will be met so that they will all achieve to their best of their ability.

Academies in Richmond upon Thames are not yet a done deal – we have a lot of work to do yet.

Cllr Serge Lourie

Leader of Richmond upon Thames Council

Your article highlighted the dangers of bringing an untried model, used in some small schools in Sweden, to large state secondary schools, even if they are not as tough as indicated. It did not, however, make clear that for parents in a large area of Richmond, there would be no alternative to this experiment.

The Swedish model relies on a high level of self-motivation, which is unfamiliar to secondary-school students, and the personalised learning is only a time-flexible option, which may not be appropriate for our prescriptive national curriculum. Some parts of the model, such as talking to students individually and with parents to set targets, are already widely practised.

If the Government believes this is a valid solution, it should fund a new purpose-built school, rather than try to bludgeon a new square peg into the round hole of an improving school.

You also highlight the wider problem of the academy programme being pushed out from the centre as an instant "radical" solution, rather than allowing communities to find their own solutions with similar funding. The article omits any reference to the £25m available to sponsors, but not to education authority or governors. Why not have a wider range of options at a local level under the academy banner? Academies are an unproven solution, despite political claims to the contrary.

Kevin Rice

Hampton, Middlesex

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