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EDUCATION

Pricey school trips ‘break the law’: agency

A number of Swedish schools are violating the law by charging students high fees for expensive class trips, according to the country's schools inspectorate.

“The problem is increasing and the tendency is that the school trips are getting all the more exclusive and expensive. People travel to far-off places in the world. It can cost 2,000 to 6,000 krononr ($320 to $970) per student; that’s quite a lot of money,” Alf Johansson, a lawyer with the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) told the TT news agency.

According to Swedish law, such trips shouldn’t cost students anything, but are supposed to be paid for by municipalities or, in the case of publicly-funded, privately-managed free schools, by the schools themselves.

When the inspectorate reviewed 824 schools last year, it discovered that 50 schools – 6 percent – violated a basic principle of Sweden’s school laws which stipulates that all students have the right to free education.

Johansson said he didn’t know exactly how many students haven’t been able to afford such trips, but he’s convinced there is a large number of unreported cases because many of the trips organised by Sweden’s 6,000 schools never come to the agency’s attention.

The Schools Inspectorate can review how trips were financed after they’ve taken place to see if schools have broken the law.

And starting on July 1st, when Sweden’s new school law enters into force, Sweden’s various schools agencies will have an expanded arsenal of tools to use against schools that violate the law, including those related to policing school trips.

The new regulations will cover both municipal public schools and free schools.

“We’re now got various levels of sanctions which start by issuing a criticism for less serious infractions. Then we can issue an injunction demanding that the problems which conflict with the law on schools be fixed. And if the schools do nothing and don’t fix the problems, we can add a fine to the injunction,” said Johansson.

However, the new law does allow for voluntary contributions to school trips – something that concerns both the Schools Inspectorate and the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket).

While the law stipulates that all education should be free of charge, there can be, according to the government, certain cases during the academic year when additional costs incurred in connection with school trips can be paid for by voluntary contributions from parents.

If one or several parents can’t pay, however, the municipality should cover the costs because the activity should be open to all students.

“Both we and the National Agency for Education have been critical of the fact that the option for voluntary contributions still exists, because exactly what counts as voluntary is open to interpretation,” said Johansson.

He believes that, in practice, the system singles out students who can’t pay.

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TRAVEL NEWS

It’s icy out there: what you can expect on the drive home from Christmas

Sweden’s state forecaster SMHI is warning of slippery ice, or ishalka on Tuesday, on the roads in central Sweden, with several trucks careering off the road overnight.

It's icy out there: what you can expect on the drive home from Christmas

According to SMHI, several stretchesof road likely to see heavy traffic after Christmas are affected by the icy connections, with the E4 motorway between Södertälje and Jönköping, stretches between the coast of Bohuslän north of Gothenburg, and the E18 between Örebro and Stockholm all with several slippery patches. 

Dalarna meanwhile will see heavy snowfall, with about 15cm of new snow falling on Monday night. 

On Monday night, a truck came off Route 55 south of Strångsjö in Katrineholm municipality late, while another was forced to stop due to slippage. 

The accident has since prevented the road from being gritted, because the stopped lorry blocked the salt-spreading truck, and then the salt truck broke down.

“A new one is on the way but it is not here yet,” Priya Eklund, a spokesperson for the police told TT at 10am on Tuesday. 

Another vehicle has gone off the road on the same stretch, but it is still unclear what happened. Traffic is currently at a standstill and many are stuck in queues.

On Tuesday morning, two trucks then collided on the E20 at Kumla outside Örebro in the direction of Gothenburg. The road is expected to be closed until 1pm, according to the Swedish Transport Administration website.

A lorry driver has been arrested on suspicion of gross negligence in traffic, drunk driving and drug offences after driving into police and rescue vehicles at an accident scene on the E4 outside Jönköping on Monday evening, Sweden’s state broadcaster SR reported.

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