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FREE SCHOOLS

Remove free school admission rights: Löfven

The opposition Social Democrats have demanded that state-funded, privately-run free schools lose the right to manage school admissions in the wake of revelations that some schools select their pupils according to academic aptitude.

Remove free school admission rights: Löfven
Photo: Janerik Henriksson/Scanpix
"This procedure we have seen, this selecting, it is not acceptable," Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven told the Dagens Nyheter daily.
 
Löfven argued that he would rather local municipalities manage admissions to all schools, including privately-run ones with any additional costs paid for by the free schools, he added.
 
The comments follow revelations by Sveriges Television's (SVT) investigative news programme Uppdrag Granskning which approached some 50 free schools, trying to gain entry for two children and recording the meetings with a hidden camera. The show found that an ambitious 12-year-old girl with good grades was considerably more welcome in many of free schools, while a twelve-year-old boy with bad grades was much less welcome.
 
The show furthermore revealed that one school principal condemned "black music" and back-to-front baseball caps.
 
The revelations prompted a stern response from Education Minister Jan Björklund who has also appeared to back the introduction of a common admission system for public schools and private schools.
 
"I am totally open to it, I think it might be a good idea. And that should be at local government level. I will now turn to the department lawyers to look into it," he told the TT news agency.
 
"It would provide increased transparency , but it would not solve all the problems. The issue that Uppdrag Granskning programme pointed out was a somewhat different problem, when parents call a school and ask if there is a place and receive a no. Then you don't bother to fill out an application," Björklund said.
 
Björklund believed that a new law could be in place at the earliest within a year, following the deliberation procedure.
 
"This is quite possible to do, but it can't be forced through," he said.
 
The Moderate Party's education policy spokesman Tomas Tobé also backed the idea of a common admissions process on Friday, meaning that there would be a majority in parliament to back any change. 
 
The idea was furthermore supported by the Swedish Teacher's Union (Lärarförbundet) chairwoman Eva- Lis Siren.
 
"It's extremely interesting. It should not be arbitrary if you get into a school or not. This must be handled seriously. That free school companies are now signalling that they can't manage admissions is a clear sign that you should not have this responsibility," she said.
 
"Therefore, it is entirely plausible that the municipalities should take over responsibility in order for the school law to be followed," she said.
 
Claes Nyberg, CEO of Friskolornas Riksförbund (Swedish Association of Independent Schools) also gave support to the idea of a common admissions process.
 
"But we should remember that it doesn't address the problems which appeared in the Uppdrag Granskning programme. There it was a matter of the reception of an application and dialogue before applying," he said.
 
Nyberg conceded that consideration of the proposal indicated a criticism of free schools but said that a common admission system could also ease the burden on privately-run schools.
 
"We have homework to do, but it could also be a relief for private schools".

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ISLAM

Prominent Muslim head of free school seized by security police

The chief executive of a largely Muslim free school in Gothenburg has been placed in custody by the Swedish Migration Agency on the orders of the country's Säpo security police. It follows the arrests of other Imams in recent months.

Prominent Muslim head of free school seized by security police
He was seized on Wednesday and taken to an immigration detention centre in the city, Sweden's Expressen newspaper reported on Thursday
 
Abdel-Nasser el Nadi, chief executive of Vetenskapsskolan, is the fifth senior member of Sweden's Muslim community to be placed in custody in less than a month. 
 
Three prominent imams are now in custody: Abo Raad, imam of a mosque in Gävle, Hussein Al-Jibury, imam of a mosque in Umeå, and Fekri Hamad, imam of a mosque in Västerås. Raad's son is also being held. 
 
 
Sven-Erik Berg, the school's headmaster, told The Local that he had no idea what was behind the arrest. 
 
“We don't know anything. I don't know anything more than you,” he said. “We are doing nothing, but the school is naturally maintaining a dialogue with the Swedish School Inspectorate and their lawyers.” 
 
He said it was inaccurate to describe the school as a 'Muslim school' as it has no official confessional status. 
 
“The chief executive is a central person among Swedish Muslims, so naturally the group of people we recruit from are often those who have a relation to Islam or Sweden's Islamic associations,” he said. “But the school does not go around telling children what they should or shouldn't believe.”
 
On its website the school declares: “At our school everyone is treated equally irrespective of gender, religion, ethnic background, appearance, opinions, or abilities”. 
 
“We are one of the best schools in Gothenburg. You just have to look at the statistics,” Berg added.  
 
A spokesman for Säpo told Expressen that he could not comment on any of the five cases or on whether they were in some way linked. 
 
But according to the Swedish news site Doku, which investigates Islamic extremists, Säpo is probing whether el Nadi has any links to a network of Islamic militants.
 
In an article published last October, the site alleged that El Nadi's activism was part of the reason that so many young men from Gothenburg had travelled to fight for the terror group Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. 
 
El-Nadi was previously the school's headmaster, and the school was in 2018 criticised by the Swedish School Inspectorate for not sufficiently promoting equality between girls and boys.
 
When he was interviewed by Dagens Nyheter a year ago, he asserted his loyalty to Sweden. 
 
“I have five children, all of whom were born in Sweden, a big family, and I want to protect this society in the same way that I have protected my children,” he said.  
 
El-Nadi was born in Egypt but has lived in Sweden since 1992. He has twice applied to become a Swedish citizen, in 2007 and 2011, and twice been rejected. 
   
 
 
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