Is Sweden keeping primary and lower secondary schools open for physical lessons?
Yes and no.
On Thursday last week, Sweden's education minister, Anna Ekström, held a press conference announcing the government's decision to temporarily empower school heads to use distance education to teach children in years seven to nine (13 to 15 years old) for some or all of their lessons.
But the government stopped short of imposing distance education for the age group nationally, as the coronavirus pressure group Vetenskapsforum Covid-19 had called for in an article in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.
The infection doctors in many regions of Sweden have, however, recommended that schools teach years seven to nine remotely, either every day or some days a week.
Just a few days before the reopening of schools, many municipalities and schools had yet to announce what they've decided.
We've collected what local information we could find at the bottom of this article.
Ekström on Saturday defended the decision not to close schools in a long interview on Swedish radio:
“The spread of infection in society is one risk, and it's a risk we must work hard to reduce,” she told Swedish Radio. “But on the other hand, I know how important school is. You really have to fight to keep schools open. If you close schools, there are major consequences.”
In the interview she said that the idea of giving head teachers the right to decide on distance learning was partly because different schools faced such different challenges and partly to allow schools to mix distance and on site learning.
She made clear that her preference was for students to be taught in school at least one day a week, allowing teachers to keep maintain better links to their students.
But in practice many municipalities appear to have opted for either distance learning or on-site teaching full time.
Is Sweden keeping upper secondary schools open?
Sweden's prime minister announced on December 18th that upper secondary school (gymnasium), would be taught via distance education until January 24th, so students aged 16-18 can expect to be doing their learning at home for at least the first two weeks of term.
What can parents do if they are worried about sending children to school?
At the the press conference The Local asked Ekström what would happen if parents themselves opted to keep their children home, perhaps because they do not believe the school is taking sufficient precautions.
Ekström said that, under Sweden's Education Act, school is mandatory up until the age of 16, so if schools are open, pupils should attend.
“If they have a medical reason – for example, if there are different forms of risk group in the family or something like that, and if you feel in the family that there's a problem if children go to school, then you should contact your doctor,” she said. “There are possibilities – but no requirement – for schools to provide distance learning.”
- improving the possibilities for keeping physical distance inside classrooms and buildings.
- making local risk assessments to strengthen preventive measures
- considering using alternative premises to reduce crowding
- making sure it is possible to keep up good hand hygiene
- avoiding activities which group together many pupils from different classes
- making sure ventilation systems are working properly, and that they are adapted for the number of people in the premises
- giving teachers the possibility to work remotely and take part in meetings digitally if possible.