Layoffs hit Sweden’s schools

Teachers are in danger of losing their jobs in roughly one third of Sweden’s 290 municipalities, a sign that the weak economy is now set to take its toll on the country’s schools.

Layoffs hit Sweden's schools

“This is just a glimpse of what we can expect to see in 2010,” said Andreas Mörck of Sweden’s National Union of Teachers (Lärarnas Riksförbund).

There have been numerous reports of municipalities giving notice to their teachers about impending layoffs, but the scope of the potential job losses in among Sweden’s educators only became clear following a new report compiled by the union.

So far, around 1,000 teachers across the country have already been given notice.

The expected job losses affect teachers in one in three municipalities, with Boden, Luleå, and Piteå in the north, along with Gävle in the east, and Alvesta in the south, being the hardest hit.

An additional 500 teachers are expected to be given notice, according to the report.

Of the teachers who have already been given notice, about 300 have already lost their jobs. A few hundred other positions have also been eliminated by not replacing them.

The figures, which are taken from the union representatives in the municipalities, cover up through February, but are already out of date.

“In the last couple of weeks a lot has happened. There have been new – and like in Luleå – widespread notices given,” said Mörck, who added that the union has never seen anything comparable to the current wave of teacher layoffs.

The job loss notices are even larger and in quicker succession then those experienced during the economic crisis of the early 1990s.

The eventual scope of the redundancies remains to be seen. But the fact that 300 teachers have already lost their jobs is an ominous sign, according to Mörck.

“Earlier things have almost always worked out, but now we’re seeing that the notices are leading to redundancies. This is a clear break with previous trends. Schools are no longer protected,” he said.

Some of the layoffs depend on falling enrollment, but the main culprit is the effect the weak economy is having in municipality finances, according to the union.

“There’s a palpable nervousness and worry in the municipalities that they won’t survive the economic crisis. I’m afraid that they are going ahead with notices and layoffs because they don’t think they have enough money to operate schools in the way they should,” said union chair Metta Fjelkner.

Both she and Mörck warn that there will be more cuts in school budgets next year due to reduced tax income.

At the same time, a number of school reforms are to be implemented, which will demand more time and energy from teachers.

“Those who ended up paying for the crisis in the 1990s were those who started school then. They’ve just finished ninth grade and now we are seeing the lowest marks ever – nearly 12 percent don’t qualify to enter high school,” she said.


Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime