Cross-party report re Sweden’s independent schools due next month

Janet Downs's picture
Should Swedish municipalities be consulted before an independent school is set up?  That’s one of the questions being considered by a cross-party committee whose report is expected by the end of next month.

Sweden’s “free schools” were the blueprint for the Coalition policy of allowing groups such as charities, parents or teachers to set up free schools in England.  Profit-making education providers were allowed to establish free schools in Sweden and there are calls in England for schools to be run for profit.  Education Secretary Michael Gove has ruled this out but he’s on record as saying that he would be happy if firms like Serco ran English schools and the Co-Op College said the New Schools Network, the organisation that promotes free schools on behalf of the Government, “actively encourages for profit providers”.

Bertil Östberg , State Secretary at the Swedish Ministry for Education and Research told the BBC last year there would be an investigation into the motivation of for-profit providers that run independent schools in Sweden.  But Östberg , who is a civil servant not a politician, didn’t give any further information.

The cross-party committee was actually set up in 2011.  Its tasks included:

1  Considering if the Swedish National Agency for Education and the Swedish Schools Inspectorate could publish more accessible data about state and independent schools so parents and others could compare the quality of different schools.

2  Reporting on the legal position when municipal schools are sold to employees.

3  Considering if the Schools Inspectorate should be given more opportunity to look at whether “conditions for approval of someone as organiser of an independent school” will still be met if a person or group “may get a significant influence” in one of Sweden’s independent schools.

The committee will report on these ten proposals:

1         Certification of the “appropriateness of repute” and economic reputation of independent school organisers;

2         Examination of the suitability and sustainability of independent school owners;

3         Consultation with municipalities before independent schools are set up;

4         Protection for employees in independent schools;

5         Transparency and disclosure;

6         Teacher resources;

7         Fast tracking the work of the Swedish School Inspectorate with the approval of the independent schools in urgent cases;

8         The “issue of regulation of the purpose with the ownership”*;

9         The issue of schools’ scope for innovation.

The committee’s conclusions are expected by 31 July 2013.


*I’m not sure what this means so have copied it verbatim from the email I received from the the Ministry of Education and Research, Sweden, on 27 June 2013.  It could mean discussing the purpose of school ownership with the owners OR regulating the motivation behind the ownership.  When Bertil Östberg spoke to the BBC he gave the impression that the Swedish Government was investigating the motivation behind the for-profit firms that ran many of Sweden’s free schools as I reported at the time.
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