When American teacher Barbara Bergström founded Internationella Engelska Skolan in 1993 it was as a result of her frustration at the lack of leadership that she experienced in Swedish schooling. Ever since then, strong local leadership has defined how we operate and provided the foundation for continuous quality improvement. Each and every one of our 43 schools around Sweden has a principal that works tirelessly with their team to give our students a thoroughly good start in life.
When IES was founded, the objective was to create a safe and orderly school environment where teachers can teach, and students learn. High academic demands were to be placed on students, and students were to become completely bilingual through receiving a significant portion of their education using the English language. Since the first school opened in Enskede, the organisation has grown considerably and IES is currently the leading operator of independent compulsory schools in Sweden, with schools across the whole country. There is strong demand from both parents and students for an IES education. This is reflected in an ever-growing queue, and in the fact that the business world and many municipalities, regardless of political party, are eager for IES to set up a school in their area.
The main reason for this is our strong focus on quality and the good results this generates. Substantially more of our students qualify for upper secondary school and perform better in the national tests, compared to the national average. We know that quality can quickly deteriorate though, and we constantly strive to improve it. We set high academic goals for our students and have well-established structures in place to ensure the right conditions exist for them to achieve these. In practice this for example means that there is a student health team at each IES school and that our teachers work together in year teams and subject teams.
There are many aspects to quality in schooling, one of which is integrity in grading. Teachers are personally responsible for setting grades, but it is the organisation’s duty to make sure that they have the right tools to do so properly. This is why we constantly work to improve grading processes. The national tests are an important parameter in our grading, and after an absence of two years, we look forward to these tests taking place again during the current academic year.
Quality is deeply embedded in our DNA, and everybody at IES has a responsibility to develop and maintain it. As the CEO, I am ultimately responsible for quality within the organisation, along with the board. At our board meetings discussions regarding how IES will ensure and further enhance quality are always high on the agenda. During this past and challenging year of the pandemic, a great deal of energy has gone into supporting the schools and staff to maintain quality. For example, a special pandemic crisis group was quickly set up to assist the schools with daily information and support.
We are convinced that schools fulfil one of the most important functions in society, and that quality in schooling for all children is a key area of focus for our country. Schools are essential to students’ future prospects and Sweden’s competitiveness, and we want to do our part. IES has proven that we are able to run successful schools. We endeavour to constantly improve quality, be a good role model and expand our operations so that we can teach more students.
Anna Sörelius Nordenborg