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EDUCATION

Swedish parents fear after-school bullying

Many Swedish parents have concerns about leaving their children in after-school programmes, a new survey has found, with fears about kids being bullied or ignored by staff chief among parents' worries.

Swedish parents fear after-school bullying

According to a report from the Swedish Municipal Workers’ Union (Kommunal), 36 percent of parents worry about after-school programmes (fritidshem, commonly know as ‘fritids’) attended by their children.

“This is totally unacceptable. Children deserve a safe and nurturing environment,” union chair Annelie Nordström said in a statement, adding that the situation was “unsustainable”.

Parents’ most common concerns, according to the study, are that their children will be bullied, that staff won’t have enough time for their children, and that children will hurt themselves.

More than half of Swedish parents also feel pressure to pick their children up early.

According to Nordström, widespread cuts over the last three decades have gutted the resources available for after-school programmes, leaving the programmes underfunded and understaffed.

“There are too few adults to ensure every child’s safety and security,” she told the TT news agency.

“When groups have between 75 and 80 children, three adults is not enough.”

Last year, after-school programme groups had an average of 39 children, according to statistics from the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket).

Overall, 83 percent of Swedish school children ages 6 to 9 are enrolled in after school programmes, which municipalities are mandated by law to provide for students up to 13-years-old in order to make it easier for both parents to work.

In the survey carried out by the Municipal Workers’ Union, 24 percent of parents reported their children had after-school programme groups with more than 40 students, with 38 percent reporting that the groups had gotten too big.

However 54 percent of parents thought after-school programme groups were about the right size.

According to the union, municipalities should receive more money from the state to help reduce the size of after-school programme groups and increase the number of specially-trained staff members who oversee the programmes.

The report comes two years after a review of 77 after-school programmes by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen), which revealed a number of shortcommings.

At one in three schools, children had nowhere to go to relax or read a book and one in four needed to improve available safety measures.

The study commissioned by the union was based on responses from 1,000 parents and was conducted by the Novus Opinion polling firm.

TT/The Local/dl

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EDUCATION

IES chain blocked from opening four new schools

Sweden's Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES) chain has been denied permission to open four new schools in Gothenburg, Huddinge, Norrtälje, and Upplands-Bro, after the schools inspectorate said it had not provided pupil data.

IES chain blocked from opening four new schools

According to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) has denied permission to the chain to open a new planned new school in Norrtälje, north of Stockholm, even though the building that will house it is already half built. The inspectorate has also denied permission to three other schools which the chain had applied to start in 2023. 

In all four cases, the applications have been rejected because the school did not submit the required independent assessment for how many pupils the schools were likely to have. 

Jörgen Stenquist, IES’s deputy chief executive, said that IES has not in the past had to submit this data, as it has always been able to point to the queues of pupils seeking admissions to the school. 

“The fact that Engelska Skolan, as opposed to our competition, has never had the need to hire external companies to do a direct pupil survey is because we have had so many in line,” he told DN.

“In the past, it has been enough that we reported a large queue in the local area. But if the School Inspectorate wants us to conduct targeted surveys and ask parents directly if they want their children to start at our new schools, then maybe we have to start doing that.”

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According to the newspaper, when the inspectorate had in the past asked for pupil predictions, the chain has refused, stating simply “we do not make student forecasts”, which the inspectorate has then accepted. 

However, in this year’s application round, when IES wrote: “We do not carry out traditional interest surveys as we simply have not had a need for this,” the inspectorate treated it as grounds to reject its applications. 

According to DN, other school chain have been complaining to the inspectorate that IES gets favourable treatment and was excused some requirements other chains have to fulfil. 

Liselotte Fredzell, from the inspectorate’s permitting unit, confirmed that the inspectorate was trying to be more even handed. 

“Yes, it is true that we are now striving for a more equal examination of applications. Things may have been getting too slack, and we needed to tighten up.” 

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