"We were the first school in Sweden, together with Kungsholmen, to offer the IB Diploma Programme which is taught exclusively in English," says Benedikz, who is originally from the UK but has worked in Sweden for over twenty years.
"From next year we'll also be offering the Natural Science Programme for upper secondary pupils in English and the Social Science Programme in both Swedish and English. This is quite a departure for what's been a very traditional school, but one we see as important and reflecting the needs of our students."
Student demand for English skills
Having previously worked as principal at IEGS for eight years, the international school on Södermalm, Benedikz knows full well just how much interest there is in English-language programmes in Sweden. "Students are very keen to ensure they have the best options for the future," she adds.
"Business and education today is so incredibly international: young people recognise this. More and more want strong English skills to compete in the international workplace, study abroad and increase their options."
This is something the school is also hearing from parents. For the second year in a row, competition for places on the IB MYP programme for pupils starting grade 7 is high. "We already have nearly 100 applicants for next year as well as parents putting younger children in the queue for both boarding and day places," says Benedikz. "Some have even put their children down to start at SSHL in 2017.
A school true to its Swedish roots
Despite its increasing international focus and the increase in foreign students applications, SSHL remains very much a Swedish school. "We have many local day students from Sigtuna. We also have Swedish boarding students whose families live and work abroad. They come to Sweden to learn more about their home country so it's important we remain aware of our roots."
The school celebrates all the typical Swedish traditions, which students and staff always enjoy. "I've been told that the Lucia celebrations in December are amazing," says Benedikz. "It takes place very early in the morning overlooking Lake Mälaren. For both our foreign and Swedish students, it's a moment to remember. I'm really looking forward to my first Lucia procession at SSHL."
A safe and secure environment
As part of its commitment to providing the very best for its students, SSHL established a new Student Welfare Centre at the start of the year in one of the former boarding homes, right at the heart of the school's impressive campus. "The Student Welfare Centre brings special needs and support teachers, along with those responsible for the health of students at the school, together under one roof," says Benedikz. "It is led by Suzanne Gavin, a teacher, who is specializes in leadership training and student welfare."
The school's mission is to help every student develop to their absolute potential, both academically and personally. "We believe in a holistic approach to schooling," says Benedikz."“We help our students develop into well-rounded, academically outstanding global citizens. The Centre is a bold move and one that reflects our new focus. Leadership training is incredibly important as it prepares our young people for the work place. Strong personal skills are just as important to succeed in life as academic excellence."
Since its inception in August, the Centre has proved very popular with parents and students alike. "The feedback we're getting is very positive. I think this shows that there’s a genuine need for more individual support for students in schools. This year we've made sure that all students applying to universities abroad are given help and guidance by staff who have previously taught within the UK higher education system. We'll also be implementing innovative changes next year, making tutors available in the afternoons to give students even more academic support."
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Since taking over the school Benedikz has also made changes to strengthen SSHL's position as a leading boarding school. "It's an increasingly competitive market, with schools in the UK and Switzerland particularly attractive, even for Swedish families choosing to send their children to boarding school," she explains.
SSHL has now been accepted as a member of the BSA, the Boarding School Association, which will bring SSHL into further alignment with other leading international boarding schools.
"By joining the BSA we can successfully implement best boarding praxis," explains Benedikz. "Everyone here at SSHL is working to ensure the school is a safe, secure, academically challenging place to live and learn. I really believe Sigtunaskolan Humanistiska Läroverket can bring something different to what is currently on offer in Sweden."
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