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.
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See also on The Local:
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.”
“I totally understand that there are parents who are worried,” Peter Fredriksson, general director of the Swedish National Agency for Education, told The Local.
He said that schools should coordinate closely with worried parents and brief them on the infection precautions they were taking, which would hopefully help increase their trust.
What about schools from poor families who rely on school lunches or lack computers at home?
Schools are still responsible for providing lunches, even if they opt to teach years seven to nine at a distance, Ekström said at the conference. Peter Fredriksson said that schools could consider setting up a scheme for serving lunch on site, so that infections could be reduced, or could offer takeaway lunches.
What extra infection precautions are in place for years seven to nine at schools that do reopen as normal on Monday?
According to a set of recommendations
announced by the Swedish Public Health Agency along with the press conference, schools are advised to try and reduce transmission by:
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.
What municipalities are recommending that lower secondary students are taught by distance learning?
It's very unclear which schools will teach years seven to nine by distance learning, and a day before school opening (on Sunday) many municipalities had yet to formally announce their decision. If you have, or are, a child in years seven to nine, check the schools website on Monday. If the school has decided to start the term via distance learning, you will almost certainly receive an email, text message, or be contacted via a schools app such as Infomentor.
Here's what we know as of Sunday:
Stockholm city authorities are leaving the decision on whether to teach years seven to nine remotely up to individual schools, according to public broadcaster SVT
In Södertälje most year 7-9 students will be taught remotely at least some of the time, but it varies from school to school.
The authorities in the municipalities of Salem and Lidingö aim for all students to be taught on site up to year nine. Lillhagaskolan in the suburb of Nykvarn will teach students in year seven on site one day a week, and those in years eight and nine on site two days a week. The rest of the time they will be taught remotely. All schools in the municipality of Täby will be teach years seven to nine remotely for part of the week.
The infection doctor for the region Skåne on Thursday said that she was recommending that all schools teach years seven to nine remotely until January 24th. According to the Sydsvenskan
newspaper, most municipalities in the region appear to be following her advice, with Malmö, Lund, Burlöv, Lomma, Svedala, Kävlinge, Staffanstorp, Trelleborg, Hörby, Klippan, Landskrona, Åstorp and Vellinge all announcing a shift to distance education.
The city of Gothenburg announced on Thursday that its 11,000 students in years seven to nine would be taught remotely until January 24th, the Göteborgs-Posten
newspaper has reported.
The city of Uppsala has decided to teach all students between years seven and nine on site, according to the Upsala Nya Tidning
newspaper, as has Knivsta municipality.
The infections doctor in the region of Blekinge recommended that all students between years seven and nine be taught remotely until January 24th on Tuesday, two days before Ekström's press conference.
The infections doctor in the region of Kalmar recommended that all students between years seven and nine be taught remotely until January 24th on Tuesday, two days before Ekström's press conference.
The infections doctor in the region of Halland recommended after Thursday's announcement that all schools teach years seven to nine via distance learning until January 24th. According to state broadcaster SVT
, only the municipality of Kungsbacka had by Thursday decided to follow the advice.
Jönköping's city authorities had on the weekend yet to announce its decision on whether to teach years seven to nine via distance learning, with the authorities telling the local Jönköpings-Posten
newspaper that the decision would likely come on Monday.