‘Asylum kids have a right to free schooling’

A government report has recommended that children of all asylum seekers should be given the right to attend pre-schools and schools, bringing Sweden closer into line with UN conventions.

The report, penned by government investigator Margareta Åberg and presented to the education minister Jan Björklund on Tuesday, recommends that all children resident in Sweden should be offered statutory education, regardless of their immigration status.

“All children, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the asylum process, should have a right to an education, including pre-school and after-school care,” Åberg writes in a government statement on Tuesday.

The report complements a previous inquiry from 2007 which excluded certain categories of asylum seekers – such as those who had not applied for the necessary permits.

“My main task has therefore been to analyse the conditions for how the right to schooling can be extended to more groups,” Åberg explains.

The inquiry proposes that funding should be made available from the local municipalities in which the children are resident and that they should also have the right to attend privately managed schools.

Local municipalities would then be reimbursed by the state.

The inquiry recommends the removal of the existing obligation for social welfare boards and schools to inform the authorities over the children in their care – a move which it is hoped will encourage more children to attend school.

“Access to schooling gives the children the opportunity to develop and to stabilize their situation,” Margareta Åberg concludes.

The proposal, if adopted, would also bring Swedish legislation closer into line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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Swedish PM pledges to ban profit making at free schools

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has pledged to stop companies withdrawing profits from schools, in what is likely to be one of the Social Democrats' main campaigning issues in the coming election campaign.

Swedish PM pledges to ban profit making at free schools

The proposal, one of three measures announced to “take back democratic control over the school system”, was launched on the first day of the Almedalen political festival on the island of Gotland.

On Sunday evening, Andersson is set to give the first big speech of the festival, with Ulf Kristersson, leader of the centre-right Moderate party, and Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar scheduled to make their speeches on Monday, and Sweden’s other party leaders taking slots on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  

“Schools in Sweden should focus on knowledge, not on the pursuit of profit,” Andersson said, as she made the pledge, stressing that her party aimed not only to ban withdrawing profits, but also “to make sure that all the possible loopholes are closed”. 

Free schools, she complained, siphon off billions of kronor in tax money every year at the same time as free schools increase divisions in society. 

Banning profits from schools is an obvious campaigning issue for the Social Democrats. The latest poll by Gothenburg University’s SOM Institute found that fully 67 percent of voters support such a ban.

The only issue is that the Centre Party, whose support the Social Democrats will need to form a government, is likely to block a future Social Democrat government from implementing it, something Andersson was willing to acknowledge.

“What I know is that there’s a very strong support for this among the Swedish people, but not in the Swedish parliament,” she said. 

The Social Democrats have campaigned on the issue in past elections, pledging to stoppa vinstjakten, or “stop the pursuit of profit in schools”, or, in the run-up to the 2018 election, only to see the policy blocked in the January Agreement the party did to win the support of the Centre Party and the Liberal party.  

On Sunday, Andersson would not give any details on whether companies listed on Swedish or international stockmarkets would be prevented from operating schools, saying she was leaving such details to an inquiry into reforming Sweden’s free school system the government launched on June 30th.  

In the press conference, Andersson criticised the inflated grades given out by free schools, which are dismissed by critics as glädjebetyg, literally “happy grades”.

“We end up having pupils who graduate with good marks who then realise that their school has let them down,” she said. 

At the press conference, Andersson also reiterated the Social Democrats call to ban the establishment of new religious free schools, and announced plans for a national schools choice system, stripping free schools of the ability to run their own queue systems.