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Swedish government proposes longer school days

Schoolchildren aged 6-10 could have longer school days and more Swedish and maths lessons, if a new proposal by the government is approved.

Swedish government proposes longer school days
File photo of a lågstadie student in Sofia skola. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

According to data from the Swedish government from spring 2022, 18,000 students, or 15 percent of students in year nine, the final year of compulsory schooling in Sweden, did not have high enough grades to move on to gymnasiet, upper secondary education for 16-19 year olds.

“Many students, most of all boys, have huge issues with reading and writing today,” Schools Minister Lotta Edholm said.

In order to improve these figures, the government wants to extend school days at the lågstadiet level, which would affect 6-10 year olds.

“Swedish schoolchildren are at school for a relatively short time, and we can see big problems regarding reading, writing, and mathematics. The foundation for much of this is laid in lågstadiet,” Edholm said.

The government proposes that teaching time be increased with an hour per school day in lågstadiet, which would mean students in the first three years of school would be at school for an extra 20 minutes each day, if this hour was split equally among each year group.

This teaching time would be dedicated to Swedish and maths, without cutting down on any other subject.

“Simply put, it’s more time in school,” Edholm said.

In the government’s budget proposal for 2023, 900 million kronor has been earmarked for this per year, starting in 2025 – the earliest date the government expects that the proposal could be approved.

At the same time, Sweden is facing a lack of teachers. According to the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket), there will be a shortage of around 12,000 trained teachers and preschool teachers in the country until 2035.

Skolverket will now be tasked with analysing the proposal to see how it could be implemented in practice, Edholm explained.

“At the same time, we’re going to invest in special teachers in Swedish schools, both by increasing the number of places on teacher training courses and by increasing the number of positions.”

She also added that the government will launch an investigation in to how the administrative burden on teachers could be lessened, so more study time can be dedicated to teaching and less on paperwork.

“The number of children in the lower years is decreasing somewhat, but it’s clear that we have a large shortage of teachers at a foundational level,” Edholm said. “Part of it is getting young people interested in becoming teachers, but also getting more teachers to come back to the profession or stay in it a little bit longer.”

“We know that this aspect of the administrative burden makes a big difference there.”

The Swedish Teacher’s Union, Lärarförbundet, disagrees. Its chairman, Johanna Jaara Årstrand, said that more teaching hours for students sounds good in theory, but would not work in practice.

“The biggest issue we have today is that students don’t have trained teachers in their classes. This proposal would mean that we need 1,100 more teachers in a situation where we’re already lacking tens of thousands,” she said.

“This proposal is simply detached from reality, which in practice would mean more lessons without teachers. That doesn’t create quality or a better work environment for the few teachers we have.”

The government has previously proposed reshuffling teaching hours in schools, after an investigation carried out by Skolverket. Under this proposal, the subject elevens val (‘student’s choice’, a lesson where students can choose which subject to study independently), would be scrapped, with those hours used on subjects covering science and society. That proposal, with a suggested start date of autumn 2024, has now been sent for remiss before it can be voted on in parliament.

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Swedish Schools Inspectorate: English school must abolish dress code

The Swedish Schools Inspectorate have given the Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES) in Täby until January 27th to abolish its dress code, stating that it limits students' individual freedoms.

Swedish Schools Inspectorate: English school must abolish dress code

The Schools Inspectorate initiated an inquiry after reports of strict dress codes at IES in Täby. In interviews, students told inspectors that they were not allowed to have their bra straps on show, wear low-cut tops or wear skirts or shorts shorter than “a student’s fingertips when standing with their arm by their side and fingers straight”.

Those who did not follow the rules were given warnings, with students telling inspectors that the rules affected girls more than boys, newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) reports.

DN reports that during a presentation, school leadership went through a dress code stating, among other things, that students were not allowed to wear a certain type of leggings, and that trousers should be high-waisted as students were not allowed to show their hips or underwear.

The newspaper also reports that some girls said they were forced to buy different clothes so they could be used at school and that they used different items of clothing in their free time.

According to the school’s headteacher, school leadership has never implemented a specific dress code, although the previous leadership was “stricter” on clothing, which may have affected the environment at the school.

However, the School Inspectorate’s assessment of the situation is that the school’s rules in practice mean that students are not allowed to wear certain clothes. This goes against Sweden’s skollagen or ‘school law’, which states that schools have a mission to convey the importance of an individual’s right to freedom and integrity.

IES in Täby has until January 27th to show the Schools Inspectorate evidence that the dress code has been scrapped.