“Tough love” at new Brandon free school

A new free school will adopt a “tough love” approach based on the Swedish educational system, the new principal of a west Suffolk school said at the weekend.

Breckland Middle School in Brandon is set to close under a Suffolk County Council education shake-up in July, which has paved the way for a community-run educational trust – Sabres (Save Breckland School) – and a Swedish-owned private company to establish IES Breckland.

Dozens of prospective parents and pupils attended a “meet the principal” event at the weekend to view the plans for the free school, which will be the first in Britain to be operated by Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES) UK when it opens its doors in September.

The free school at the existing middle school site will be run by Sherry Zand, who has 13 years’ teaching experience in the public and private sector in Britain. She said she would be bringing in a Swedish ethos, which would adapt to fit within the British educational system.

“The Swedish ethos is tough love and having the rules so that teachers can teach and students can learn and it is a calm learning environment and building that mutual respect. The most important thing is that it is an inclusive school and it is not just about academic excellence; it is making sure they are prepared for the real world,” she said.

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Miss Zand praised the efforts of the community in their three-year fight to retain secondary education in Brandon.

“This is a real opportunity for everyone and everyone has been so supportive and I am quite overwhelmed with it. At this stage we are open to ideas – it is for the community and we want them to tell us what they think,” she said.

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Schoolchildren across Sweden do not wear uniforms, but IES Breckland will be introducing a “smart, affordable” uniform, and pupils and parents got the opportunity to have their say on a proposed purple outfit for boys and girls at the consultation event.

The school is also set to launch a competition to design four house shields reflecting Breckland and Swedish heritage.

The free school, which was granted government approval last month, has places for 300 year 7, 8 and 9 pupils and parents are being urged to sign their children up as soon as possible from across the Brandon and Thetford area.

Jodie King, UK manager for IES UK, said they would be introducing a mentoring system where parents received contact from teachers every two weeks and pupils had a fortnightly one-to-one conversation with teachers. She added that the company was looking to set up other free schools in Britain.

For more information, visit www.sabreseducationaltrust.com.

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