Left Party to focus on pre-school staff reform

The minority opposition Left Party wants to reduce pre-school class sizes and invest in staff, it said ahead of releasing its proposed budget for the next political term.

Left Party to focus on pre-school staff reform
A pre-school class in the 1980s. File photo: Private

The Left Party is likely to form some kind of cooperation with the Social Democrats and Greens if there's a shift in government after the September elections. A key focus for party would then be to cap the number of children in pre-school. This would ease the burden on the staff, it says. 

"It's obvious that they don't have enough time no matter how much they try," financial spokeswoman Ulla Andersson said about the working conditions in an interview with public broadcaster SVT.

At present, there are on average 20 children per teacher in Sweden's pre-schools. 

The party would also like children whose parents are on parental leave to have better access to pre-schools. Currently, a child with a parent at home, for example because the family has welcomed another child, can only attend classes for 15 hours a week. The Left Party would like to increase that to 30 hours.

The reform would also allow children whose parents are unemployed to spend more time in pre-school.

The pre-school investment would cost 7.1 billion ($1.08 billion), with 750 million ($114 million) earmarked for employing more staff. The Left Party, which presents its full budget next Tuesday, would pay for the reforms by revoking the centre-right government's reduction in restaurant VAT. 

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Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

Children between ages 6-9 years should be allowed admittance to after-school recreation centers free of charge, according to a report submitted to Sweden’s Minister of Education Lotta Edholm (L).

Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

“If this reform is implemented, after-school recreation centers will be accessible to the children who may have the greatest need for the activities,” said Kerstin Andersson, who was appointed to lead a government inquiry into expanding access to after-school recreation by the former Social Democrat government. 

More than half a million primary- and middle-school-aged children spend a large part of their school days and holidays in after-school centres.

But the right to after-school care is not freely available to all children. In most municipalities, it is conditional on the parent’s occupational status of working or studying. Thus, attendance varies and is significantly lower in areas where unemployment is high and family finances weak.

In this context, the previous government formally began to inquire into expanding rights to leisure. The report was recently handed over to Sweden’s education minister, Lotta Edholm, on Monday.

Andersson proposed that after-school activities should be made available free of charge to all children between the ages of six and nine in the same way that preschool has been for children between the ages of three and five. This would mean that children whose parents are unemployed, on parental leave or long-term sick leave will no longer be excluded. 

“The biggest benefit is that after-school recreation centres will be made available to all children,” Andersson said. “Today, participation is highest in areas with very good conditions, while it is lower in sparsely populated areas and in areas with socio-economic challenges.” 

Enforcing this proposal could cause a need for about 10,200 more places in after-school centre, would cost the state just over half a billion kronor a year, and would require more adults to work in after-school centres. 

Andersson recommends recruiting staff more broadly, and not insisting that so many staff are specialised after-school activities teachers, or fritidspedagod

“The Education Act states that qualified teachers are responsible for teaching, but that other staff may participate,” Andersson said. “This is sometimes interpreted as meaning that other staff may be used, but preferably not’. We propose that recognition be given to so-called ‘other staff’, and that they should be given a clear role in the work.”

She suggested that people who have studied in the “children’s teaching and recreational programmes” at gymnasium level,  people who have studied recreational training, and social educators might be used. 

“People trained to work with children can contribute with many different skills. Right now, it might be an uncertain work situation for many who work for a few months while the employer is looking for qualified teachers”, Andersson said.