The National Auditor (Riksrevisionen), which carried out the review, urges the School Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) to take its role as “gatekeeper” more seriously.
“It would be utopia if all schools got off to a flying start without any problems,” Andreas Spång at the inspectorate told news agency TT in response to the criticism.
“But the auditor does have a point and we continuously revise what material we ask schools to submit when we consider their applications.”
Sweden had more than 700 privately-run, privately-managed compulsory schools and almost 500 high schools as of 2011.
Last year, 789 applications were sent to the inspectorate. About one-fourth of the applicants were successful, but among them only one in three went on to set up the proposed schools.
The auditor’s report also noted that reports filed by the inspectorate after a first mandatory visit reveal many new schools face serious challenges.
The current free school application system is too vague in parts, according to the auditor, which added that the inspectorate must make sure there are enough teachers signed up to the proposed new venture.
But the inspectorate has attempted to shore up parts of the application process.
A few months ago, it became mandatory for applicants to name a legal representative who must prove that the proposed free school has all the resources needed to set up.
“Of about 119 schools that we deemed ready to start, only about 26 did, so it’s possible this new demand frightens them off,” Andreas Spång told TT.