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Notes from Sweden

Early Years and Childcare
1-5 year olds whose parents work or study are guaranteed a place in “pre-school” within 4 months.  Children aged 3-5 whose parents do not work receive 15 hours a week of free child care (“general pre-school.”)
The maximum fee for pre-school is £126 a month but this is reduced once children reach the age of 4 or if parents have more than one child. It is also means assessed.
If parents work “anti-social hours” pre-school is available from 18.15 to 21.00 as well. They are now also introducing another pre-school for children whose parents who work nights.
Documentation of learning based on learning plans for children are a priority at the moment and this has interesting parallels to the UK’s Early Years Foundation Stage Framework .
Early years provision is seen as serving the dual function of childcare (allowing parents to work or study) and preparation for education. The term “educare” has therefore been coined.
Counteracting gender stereotypes is one of the top seven priorities for pre-school settings
Both parents receive 10 days of maternity/paternity leave when children are born and 480 days which can be used until children are 8 years old. Above the 60 days reserved for each parent this can be shared out between the parents as they see fit. Fathers are increasingly keen to use their paternity rights but there are many instances of private sector employers discouraging parents from using their days/having children.
Social work and Education
In line with L.K.M Consulting’s philosophy of “Youth Development,” there is a strong emphasis on schools working with social-services to ensure children and young people receive the nurture they need to make a successful transition to adulthood.
Interventions include
  • Coaching – where a skilled social-worker works with groups of up to 8 identified pupils using a range of Cognitive Behavioural and other therapies to re-engage challenging/challenged pupils
  • The Family Group Conference – in which a social-worker facilitates a meeting between family members, relevant friends and the child to find solutions to problems
  • “Therapeutic Models for Engaging Parents” – Social-workers share expertise with teachers on how to approach and build up relationships with parents
  • Family Classes- (based on the work of London’s Marlborough Centre) where parents attend classes in a centre with their children and work with them.
  • Field work – much like our detached youth workers
  • Youth Centres.
A central governing body for social-services researches methodologies around the world, tests them and disseminates effective practice
It costs £600,000 to work with 180 pupils in this way and 80% improve academically and behaviourally to the point at which they can function normally in class. This investment is justified by looking at the pay-off of short-term funding for long-term return – “We look at the resource cost of coming in too late”
The incredibly high level of skill and expertise of social-workers who perform day to day functions in schools are striking and difficult to equate to our use of learning mentors and LSAs in the UK.
Free Schools: a split verdict… so far
“The consequence has definitely been more segregation not less”: This was the initial, worrying verdict. However, it is an open question as to whether this is because of the mad admissions procedures which allows free schools to effectively choose their intake or an inevitable consequence of school choice. On the first of July the law is being changed to stop free schools choosing their intake so it will be easier to judge.
“They’ve made the municipality raise their game”: It was argued that free schools have been head hunting teachers and by seeking out the best teachers they have forced other schools to re-examine the way they recruit teachers. As a result it was suggested that standards will be raised across the board. Of course, if the municipality is unsuccessful in doing so, the consequences will surely be negative rather than the “rising tide that lifts all ships.”
“They are incubators for innovation”: Whilst it is hard to try things out at a municipality level, free-schools can try out new approaches at school level and where successful, good practice can be rolled out across the board. One could however argue that a sensible degree of school autonomy within a municipality/LA would also make this possible.
Other interesting points of note
There is currently lots of discussion about whether computers and internet should be part of the benefits package as they are increasingly important if parents are to search for jobs and pupils are to be able to continue learning outside of school.
New arrivals in the country who do not have a job follow a 2 year “Swedish for Foreigners” program. This looks at previous achievements/education and provides a program to prepare people for working life.
If 5 or more children in a municipality speak the same mother tongue they have the right to develop their language. Learning the mother tongue is therefore a priority for all settings. It is seen as “good for society” for people to speak different languages. Learning the mother tongue is thought to help develop identity as well as making it easier to learn Swedish.

One comment

  1. Garth Stahl says:

    Thank you for this interesting and thought-provoking analysis; obviously Sweden believes in tremendous investment (through a multi-disciplinary approach) in the early years which pays off in dividends generations later (lower crime, etc). The approach would appear to be very integral to the value system.

    Reading through this I recalled the Jamie Bulger murder in the UK, and the somewhat similar crime that followed in the Sweden a year or so later – there was an interesting commentary in the press at this point between the UK being quick to ‘blame the parents’ while Sweden was quick to ‘blame society for letting it come to this’. To look toward the community as the root cause – rather than blaming individuals – has always fascinated me as in some ways one is putting a culture on trial.

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