Half of principals back re-nationalizing schools

Nearly half of principals in Sweden want to see control of schools taken away from intrusive local government officials and put back in the hands of the state, a new survey has shown.

Half of principals back re-nationalizing schools

Roughly one in two, 48.3 percent, of Swedish school principals support having school’s renationalized, according to a survey carried out by broadcaster Utbildningsradion (UR).

Just over 22 percent of the 980 principals interviewed in the survey rejected the idea of having the state reclaim control over schools, with the remaining respondents saying they weren’t sure.

The survey also found that 51 percent of principals felt steamrolled by local government officials, and 48 percent said they would prefer to be employees of the state, rather than of their local municipalities.

Sweden’s Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), the party of current Education Minister Jan Björklund, has long pushed for Sweden’s schools to be re-nationalized, but has failed to gain any traction on the issue.

The “dual leadership” of having municipalities and the state share responsibility for schools results in a “muddled system of control”, Liberal Party argued in a 2009 report.

A 2011 opinion poll found that a majority, 56 percent of Swedes, were also in favour of renationalizing Swedish schools, something the head of the National Teachers’ Association (Lärarnas Riksförbund) said at the time was a sign of “deep discontent” with Swedish schools.

TT/The Local/dl

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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.