Internationella Engelska Skolan Liljeholmen is a 4-9 school with a safe and calm environment, where teachers can teach and students learn. From August 2024 the school will teach students in grades F-9.

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News | 21 February 2022

IES and free schools in the media, today and ahead

The media interest in IES has been significant recently. As one of the largest education providers we are sometimes highlighted as an example by those who are negative to independent schools, but there have also been reports of alleged anomalies in individual schools. Occasionally events in one school are described, in a rather confusing way, to be true of IES as a whole, and then linked to the debate about the free school system in general. We know and recognize that it can be really tough when your own workplace or employer is the subject of media’s attention, regardless of whether you recognize yourself in the image that is conveyed or not.

The fact that IES has ended up in the spotlight is not surprising. IES is known by many and we have a distinct profile. But that is also what makes IES attractive among yourselves as staff, parents and municipal politicians.


We want you to know that we take all criticism of IES as an employer very seriously. We welcome scrutiny, and are deepening our dialogue with the union. We constantly strive to get better, as educators and as employers. If needed, we take action.

As staff, you are utterly important, and a prerequisite for us as a school to be able to keep our promise to parents: to give our students a high quality education, with high academic expectations of every student, regardless of their background.

The Swedish school system will continue to be subject of political focus during the election year, and we can expect that the media's interest in IES will carry on, at least until election day.

During the past week, the government has presented a number of proposals that could affect the independent schools if they pass parliament. We don’t believe they will, in their current form, but some change may be coming. It is about changes in school vouchers, the queuing system but also an increased focus on order and safety (which we take as proof that what IES does is also appreciated by our critics). On Sunday evening, SVT Agenda broadcasted a two-hour program about the major political topics of education. One of the topics was the importance of independent schools, and what conditions will apply to independent schools in the future. Below is the company view on the main topics of the debate:

Profit enables us to offer more families a good school

One hot topic is whether it is right for independent schools to be allowed to make a profit. For IES, a surplus in the business is crucial to be able to meet the great demand for our international profile in combination with high academic expectations and to open new schools.

You should know that we do not establish new schools without a request from the municipality in question. And all new establishments of schools take place in collaboration with the municipality.

Between 2015 and 2020, IES had a profit margin of between 5 and 7 percent annually, or a total of SEK 660 million before tax. During the same period, the company has invested SEK 340 million, and paid SEK 115 million in taxes. IES was delisted from the stock exchange in 2020. For the past two years, no dividend has been paid to shareholders.

IES invests approximately SEK 15–25 million in each new school. The cost includes equipping the school with furniture, equipment and a schoolyard. In addition, there is the cost of covering the loss that a new school incurs in the first years, as the school does not have the full number of students until after 3-5 years.

Each school entails a financial commitment that extends over a long period of time. The usual is IES signs leases that run over 20-25 years but we do not see an end date.

This means a total rental commitment of SEK 200-300 million. That commitment is not possible without a surplus.

The queuing system makes it possible for our students to choose

It is our students who choose our schools, and not the other way around, counter to what some critics claim. Today, we have 32,000 students from 165 municipalities in 43 schools. 39 percent of our students have a foreign background compared to the national average of 26 percent. There are almost a quarter of a million queue registrations to our schools. We are convinced that the queuing system is a less segregating system than the proximity principle. It would be deeply unfortunate if the students who want to travel between municipalities and districts to enter a school other than the nearest one can no longer do so in the future.

Instead of limiting the choice of school, it should be made mandatory and we should advocate for more families to make an active choice, regardless of whether it is a municipal or a free school.

Fair grading is an important priority to IES

Generous grading is one of the accusations towards independent schools. We know that it is important for everyone who works at the Internationella Engelska Skolan that students' knowledge matches their grades. When Skolinspektionen last autumn examined how IES works with grading and national tests, the conclusion was that the systematic quality work and support for the schools in grading is of high quality. And high integrity in grading is important: grading is an exercise of authority, and a mandate that teachers have. The principal has a great responsibility to ensure that you teachers have the right competence and knowledge to set correct grades.

Here, the national tests are an important measure. IES has long advocated that the national tests should be marked externally, and not in individual schools. Hence, IES welcomes the National Agency for Education's proposal to introduce external marking of certain national tests from 2027 onwards.

Anna Nordenborg