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Surge in applications to start free schools

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Surge in applications to start free schools
Photo: Claes Gertsen/Scanpix (file)
16:32 CEST+02:00
The Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) has received 36 percent more applications to start independent 'free' schools or to expand existing institutions for the autumn term of 2011. The agency received 689 applications by March 31st, the end of the 2010 application period, compared to 506 in 2009.

A total of 405 applications involve the creation of new schools, with 226 for elementary schools and 179 for secondary schools. The other 284 applications are for expanding existing schools, primarily for secondary schools that want to provide more programs.

"We are very surprised by the surge and have no good answer for the reason behind it," Schools Inspectorate statistician Fredrik Uhrzander told The Local. "The number of applications has increased for both primary and secondary schools and applies to both new establishments and the expansion of existing operations."

Most of the applications come from the three major metropolitan areas: Stockholm county (149), Skåne county (113) and Västra Götaland county (105). The agency received applications to establish at least one new secondary school from all counties except for Jämtland.

"The three metropolitan counties showed the largest increase in numbers compared to last year, but in percentage terms, the share of applications from several other counties increased significantly," Uhrzander told The Local.

The agency will now send the applications to the relevant municipalities for consultation. Applications regarding secondary schools are also sent to neighbouring municipalities. The municipalities' opinions, which should be included in their submissions to the agency by June 22nd, will include how the proposed school will impact the municipalities' education systems.

The School Inspectorate will decide on the applications in the autumn. Most of the applicants will be notified before the end of the year. Of the 506 applications received last year, 32 percent were fully approved. There is a tendency toward a slight increase of refusals compared to the past, particularly for high school applications.

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