Education agency slams after-school centres

Sweden's after-school recreation centres have been slammed by the Swedish National Agency for Education, which described them as "shabby and narrow-minded".

The groups of children in the Fritidhem system are too big and the resources too small, said the agency.

“It’s remarkable considering how many children go to the recreation centres and how important they are for the children’s development,” said Lars Ullén, spokesman for the agency.

Last year 327,000 children – roughly three quarters of Swedish children aged six to nine – attended after-school centres.

The Fritidshem system was decimated by cutbacks in the 1990s. Staff numbers were halved, which led to today’s ratio of 18.6 children per adult and over 30 children per group, according to the National Agency for Education’s analysis.

For many years the agency has pointed to failings in the Fritidshem operation. The agency states in its latest report that inspectors found it hard to judge the quality at many centres since there were no targets or evaluations carried out.

“The good system of the 1970s and 1980s doesn’t exist any more,” said Dr Maud Ihrskog at Växjö University to Dagens Nyheter.