Teachers are the most important factor to ensure that our students are able to go out into life with knowledge and insight. Therefore, it is positive that school issues are always discussed. In recent weeks, part of the debate about schools has considered the rules at Internationella Engelska Skolan, conditions for our international teachers and the work environment. We know that this debate has raised questions and would like to answer some of them.
We offer bilingual teaching of the highest quality and so we recruit teachers who can contribute new knowledge from some of the world's best education programmes, sharing best practice, diversity of experience, and perspectives from both Sweden and the wider world. Approximately 1,000 of our 2,300 teachers have English as their mother tongue.
One of our most important promises is that students should be allowed to learn and that teachers should be allowed to be teachers. We invest a lot in building teams around the student where different specialist competencies work together to create the best learning environment. We have 3,500 employees at our 43 schools, of which 2,300 are teachers. Together with student health teams, after-school educators, librarians and school management, they work every day to create a safe study environment. The fact that each person works with their profession is a guiding principle in our work.
We know from our annual employee survey that IES is a valued workplace and employer. 9 out of 10 staff would recommend IES to others.
At the same time in schools, as in the rest of society, the pandemic is a grim reality that affects operations in depth. The situation in schools is pressured. To ensure students' education, even while many employees are ill or in quarantine, colleagues cover for one another, just as they do in workplaces in all sectors across the country. During some time periods, we have had up to fifty percent staff absence at some of our schools, but lessons have continued.
IES’ head of HR Catarina Friborg said: “It has been fantastic to see how colleagues have stood up for each other and tried to create normality for the students in a completely different situation. It has required a lot from everyone and it continues to be tiring.”
In order to maintain a good working environment as far as possible, we obviously have systems and processes in place. We always follow laws and regulations and we follow Almega's collective agreement for independent schools. Here, the employer has the ultimate responsibility. Should it turn out that someone has been treated incorrectly, we always take action.
The work environment is something we create together. IES has a responsibility to ensure that there are systems in place to safeguard that we follow laws and regulations, catch any problems early and remedy them before they have time to grow and have consequences. This work includes an annual employee survey, an independent whistleblower function, ongoing dialogue with the unions locally and centrally, and major investments in leadership.
Ms Friborg said: “Every day school principals ensure that our employees have the right conditions to do their jobs. We are extremely careful when we recruit principals, because we know how important it is to have a leadership that supports and encourages people.”
All IES school leaders have support from other experienced managers and access to further education in a number of areas, such as our core values, student health, labour law, quality, school law and safety. Newly appointed school leaders are also supported through an internal mentorship program. In addition, IES has run a leadership academy for future leaders within the organisation for several years.
“The recruitment of our international teachers takes place primarily through visits to universities in various English-speaking countries. This means that many of the teachers who come to us are relatively young, with the latest in education fresh in their minds. But we also recruit teachers with longer experience,” said Ms Friborg.
IES has a collective agreement and follows rules regarding working hours and remuneration. In addition to annual salary revisions, we make a continual analysis of the salary situation for different salary groups, to ensure a good salary development at an overall level.
IES teachers are on average younger than the national average. 66 percent of IES teachers are under the age of 40, compared with 32 percent in the country. Most of our international teachers come directly from the university and this affects the starting salary. As a whole, we are well in line with the national wage situation.
IES has a staff turnover of 19 percent, which is in line with the rest of the country and significantly lower than other staff-intensive industries. A sign that more people are choosing to stay within IES (and in Swedish schools) is that this figure is also gradually declining.
Ms Friborg added: “Our staff turnover is in line with the rest of the country. Many of our international teachers see it as an opportunity to work abroad for a few years, together with colleagues from other countries. Some return home after a couple of years, others choose to stay longer, which is gratifying.”