The century-old Swedish School in London taking new steps
22 October 2020
The Swedish School in London has provided stability and high-quality education to the Swedish community in London for over a century. Over the years, the school has stood through two world wars. It is now facing new challenges with the ongoing pandemic and the UK’s upcoming departure from the EU. The Link met with the school’s new Head Teacher, Jenny Abrahamsson, who lets us in on how she plans to take the school successfully through a period of change.
The Swedish School in London was established over 100 years ago, in 1907. The school has evolved over the years and is today welcoming students from pre-school to sixth form. As the only Swedish School in the United Kingdom, the school provides a firm foundation for Swedish families living in London. “Together with the Embassy, the Swedish Chamber of Commerce and the church, the school enable businesses to recruit skilled staff with children from Sweden. We also offer Swedish families living in London the opportunity to maintain the Swedish language and culture.” Jenny Abrahamsson, Head Teacher of the Swedish School in London, says.
The Swedish School in London follows the Swedish curriculum and is approved by The Swedish National Agency for Education as well as the Department of Education in the UK. As a consequence, if a family moves to London from Sweden, or if they are returning to Sweden, the children can continue their education without the need to retake any year groups. The school also provide an excellent foundation for further studies in the UK and abroad. Both Swedish and British authorities regularly inspect the school. Ofsted, Office for Standards in Education, has given the school the top result ‘outstanding’ for the three most recent inspections. “I think our school ethos and staff are some of the main reasons why we have these excellent results from the inspections. Another factor is the communication between the board, school management, teachers, pupils and parents. There is a sense of community and involvement where everyone pitches in to make sure that we can maintain the extremely high standard for which we are known,” Jenny says.
Leadership in times of change
Jenny assumed the responsibility as Head Teacher this summer and it has been a period with many uncertainties. “I would say that my biggest challenge at the moment is to transition the school through a period of change without losing sight of the long-term objectives. Also making people feel confident and secure in their environment and setting a positive tone for the future, despite being in a fairly challenging position.” To be able to handle this period, Jenny relies on her management style, which encompasses compassionate leadership, clear communication, and integrity. Despite the challenges, Jenny is optimistic and sees Brexit as a potential window of opportunity to attract a broader target group for both the school in Barnes and sixth form.
Clear visions for the future
Looking ahead, Jenny has clear visions for the school and its students. “I want the school to be a sourcing pool for Swedish businesses and education. Setting the tone and sending confident, competent and well-graduating students that contribute to the development of the organisation or company they come to,” Jenny says. Equally important to having visions for the students, is the staff. “As the Head Teacher, I want to set clear objectives and provide our skilled and dedicated staff with the right circumstances for them to develop and do what they are good at.” Furthermore, Jenny has a desire to strengthen the profile of the school’s sixth form through mentoring programmes and using its location to expand and enrich the programmes. “Part of this is how we can strengthen the connection between the school and businesses in London.”
A milestone in the school’s development
Since the Swedish School in London first opened its doors at the beginning of the 20th century a lot has happened. The school is now one of the largest Swedish schools abroad and only one in five schools which offers students to attend and graduate from sixth form. An upcoming project this autumn is the move of the entire sixth form to The National Archives in Kew, a non-ministerial department and the official archive and publisher for the UK Government, England and Wales. Jenny emphasises the importance of this project: “Months of discussions and collaboration in preparation for this move have highlighted just how closely aligned our values around education are. I think this is going to be a major milestone in the school’s development.”