For those who have read the blog’s early posts, you will remember we chose to home educate our little lady by taking her out of her school in England, and to not put our twins into the English schooling system. However, when we moved here to Sweden, we realised that we had no option but to use the Swedish school system as you are not allowed to home educate in Sweden. But we were more than happy with that, as it was one of our big reasons for living in Sweden. This post explains some of what we have found very different between Swedish school and English school. Of course these are our opinions based on what we feel is right for our family, and I do realise that every school is different in both countries. So there will be some reading this that disagree with one or the other system (or both), and of course these observations are based on our children’s experience here. What we feel is right for our children and family might not be right for yours, but I just wanted to highlight a few of the things that are working for us 🙂
So What Is So Different About Swedish School?
The Starting Age:
They go into förskoleklass (the year before the formal classes start) the year they turn 6 (so my twins were quite young, and most of the class were already 6). This is in contrast to the class being 4 years of age starting in England. You may think this would leave the Swedish children either struggling to catch up with their English counterparts, or that children in the Swedish system must be missing out. However, there is research to show this is not the case. For example, evidence has shown, that by the time children reach 11 years of age, generally reading skills have averaged out between early starters and later starters. My daughter is ahead in maths, but only because she has had a 3 year head start on her school friends here, and it just gives her a little breathing space when she is coping with learning a new language. They have many more years of just playing before their formal education starts here, and there is a lot that can be learnt through play!
The Length Of The School Day:
This is much shorter. In England our daughter started school just before 9am and finished at around 3.15pm. Here, in Swedish school, kick off is at 8am (OK that might seem rather early in comparison, but it gets rid of that ‘inbetweeny’ not enough time to really do anything space in the mornings!), and it does get the school day over and done with earlier leaving more time for….you guessed it, play! The finishing times change, depending on what age you are and what day of the week you are on. So this took a lot of getting used to and has kept me on my toes….especially since I have 3 children in the school to get finishing times straight for. My twins finish at either midday or 1pm depending on the day of the week (12pm three times though and 1pm twice), and my little lady now has a longer school day, nearing the same sort of length as in the England. But this is the first year she has a few days like this and she is the equivalent of a year 5 in England, and then she finishes earlier on other days. For example, on a Friday she is finished by 1245. For us it also means we can carry on doing our own little things at home, similar to before they started back into a formal school system.
Outdoor Is Considered Important:
Those of you who knew us in England will know about my despair about children being cooped up indoors unnecessarily, the tipping point when one bright autumn day they couldn’t play outdoors because “the leaves were wet”. Here they can be outdoors in almost any weather. When it is raining for example there is a red flag up and the children are allowed to decide themselves whether they would like to head out or not (everyone invests properly here in their outdoor gear, and the children have proper footwear as appropriate too). Those short Swedish school days also include a chunky morning play time, and an hour to play and eat your lunch. So even though they are at school for less of the day, they still get outdoors just as much (if not more as they go off outdoors for some lesson time as well) than their English counterparts.
Swedish schools believe heavily in the children’s time being their play time. Forget homework coming home at 4 years of age. Our daughter has started bringing some reading home now, at age 10 years, and even then it is one chapter a week and a few short questions (this I can imagine takes us a little longer than the average class mate due to our language issues), but it is still considerably less than what she was doing when we pulled her out of the English system in year 3 over there…..spellings every week for a test, some written English, and some maths on top of her reading.
Calling Staff By Their First Names:
There would be mass panic in England that this would reduce respect and cause discipline issues. We have not seen anything of that over here. In Swedish school there seems to be a mutual respect between staff and children and it seems to work just fine.
No School Uniforms:
Again this doesn’t seem to cause any issues. In fact, it is a lot easier to dress them practically for the weather, whatever the season, when you are dressing them in their own clothing! Her classmates have looked aghast at a photo that our little lady has taken into school to show what she was wearing, and that it was the same as everyone else, without hardly any deviation.
No Shoes Indoors:
This is a concept throughout Sweden, not just in Swedish school and it is so good for their little feet and their development!! But it also means there is a home for the large winter boots on the shoe rack, or the wellies they need for when it is pouring with rain all day. Plus it makes for excellent sliding along the corridors 😉
I do realise that the Swedish school system might not for everyone, and some people may find it a little too laid back. However, we find it works so well for our three and we can see the benefits of how things are done here. There is less work compared to their age group in England, especially in the younger classes. There are longer breaks in the school day. There seem to be more holidays when you take them over the course of a whole school year. But the children are happy, and the adults here are well educated. I can see a lot of working parents might raise a hand to have a problem with the shorter days, but with heavily subsidised before and after school care, known as fritidshem (somewhere in the region of £80 per month, per child) even that beats the private costly alternatives in England…especially when that involves holiday club care as well.