Sweden to lift distance-learning rule for upper secondary schools

Sweden to lift distance-learning rule for upper secondary schools
An empty corridor at an upper secondary school in southern Stockholm. Photo: Amir Nabizadeh/TT
From April 1st, Sweden will resume in-person teaching for many upper-secondary school students.

Upper secondary schools (gymnasieskolor, usually for children aged 16-18) switched to distance learning in early December in a measure the prime minister said should pull a “brake” on the spread of infection; they were also closed during spring and summer 2020. In January this measure was extended to April 1st, but adapted so that schools had increased possibility to offer some teaching in-person.

From April, it will no longer be the default to carry out teaching remotely at upper secondary schools.

“This is good news for many people, but it doesn’t mean we are saying the danger is over,” Education Minister Anna Ekström warned at a briefing announcing the change.

The change does not necessarily mean that all teaching will take place in person from April. Schools have the possibility to offer remote learning if required due to a high spread of infection at the school or in the area, or if needed in order to reduce crowding at the school or on public transport. This decision can be made by regional infectious disease doctors or in some cases by the head of the school.

“For very many upper secondary students, they will probably continue with some distance learning to the extent required,” Ekström said.

Speaking on Thursday morning, Britta Björkholm, department head at the Public Health Agency, said it was crucial for schools to ensure sufficient measures are in place to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

She also said that more extensive testing in schools was possible, for example regular antigen tests for teachers as is the case in many countries already.

Schools for under-16s have never been closed at a national level in Sweden during the pandemic, meaning there have been possibilities — but no requirement — for teaching of younger children to switch to distance learning. The exact recommendations have differed between schools and between municipalities.

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