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EDUCATION

Anger as Swedish school tests girl-only classes

A school in Sweden is trialling gender-separated classes in an effort to break students out of negative patterns, challenging more than 40-years of Swedish educational orthodoxy.

Anger as Swedish school tests girl-only classes
Adolfsbergskolan is separating girls and boys for a few weeks. Photo: Google
When students in classes 9c and 9d at Adolfsberg School in the city of Örebro returned after their Christmas holidays, they found that their classmates had changed so that they were only studying with students of their own sex. 
 
Their parents then received a letter informing them that for the next six weeks their classes would be divided into “a class consisting of girls and a class consisting of boys” for all subjects apart from science, according to the local Nerikes Allehande (NA) newspaper. 
 
Adolfsberg School’s headmistress Anneli Widestrand told The Local that there had been a “misunderstanding”, arguing that it was wrong to to see the single sex groups as actual classes, as the sex segregation would only last “a few weeks”. It was better seen as a one-off intervention to “strengthen knowledge development” among certain pupils.  
 
She told NA that the separation aimed “to test new ways to meet students on an individual basis”. “I think it's a good way to break the pattern, to reach students,” she said. 
 
She said her long experience as a teacher had taught her that some girl pupils did not dare to speak or break negative behaviour patterns when surrounded by boys. 
 
But the students were nonetheless largely opposed to the move.  
 
“If I had wanted to go to a girls' school, I would have done it, but that’s impossible anyway. They closed in 1974,” one of the students, Beata Ejdeholt, told NA, which employs her mother as a journalist. 
 
“People are very unhappy and upset. We have questioned it and students have written about it on Instagram. We have raised it several times but they just say that some girls think it is difficult to give presentations in front of some guys.”
 
Sweden’s Schools Inspectorate last year ruled that an Islamic school in Stockholm had the right to separate boys and girls for PE lessons, triggering a debate in Swedish society.  As a result Education Minister Gustav Fridolin said he aimed to bring in new regulations to prevent gender segregation. 
 
There is some evidence however that both boys and girls perform better academically in single sex classes. 
 
A study of British schools carried out by education data analysts SchoolDash found that pupils studying in single sex state schools received significantly higher exam results in 2016 than those in mixed schools, with 75% percent getting five good GCSEs compared to 55% in mixed schools. 

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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