Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Swedish school tour

My sister in law was lovely enough to invite me to her school for a visit the other day!

She is one of a group of teachers that got together and formed their own 'free school' in Stockholm.   The idea of free schools is that s group of parents (or teachers) can set up a school however they like and wherever they like (although they must teach the Swedish curriculum).   They receive money from the government for each child enrolled or about £5000 ($7700 US) each year  In 2008, more than 10% of Swedish pupils were enrolled in 'free schools'.

At this time of year the days are really short - just a few hours of light really.  This is the school at mid day - you can see it's starting to get dark already.
If this were an English school I have no doubt that it would be closed because of the snow but here as always everything continues in all weather; the buses run on time, the trains continue and the roads are cleared regularly.

Mia explained to me that throwing snowballs is banned at the school so I refrained but it soon became clear that if a student is caught making a snowball they just say that they are starting a snowman.

I arrived at the school just in time for lunch and on the menu was Tomtegröt which translates roughly as Elf Porridge.  Basically it's rice pudding with a sprinkling of cinnamon on top (yes this was for lunch).  Although it is a savoury dish any leftovers can just have fruit and sugar added to make a dessert.

According to folklore, a plate of Tomtegröt is placed in a bowl in the garden on Christmas Eve to keep the Elf that looks after your house (Tomte) in a good mood for the coming year.

It's considered extremely bad manners in Sweden to wear any ind of outside shoes inside, which makes sense when you see the snow of course.  This is the sight that greats you when you go into one of the many school buildings here.
Here's Mia doing a face palm as one of her students struggles to find the right day on a skumtomte filled advent calender.  Skumtomtes are festive foam type Father Christmas shaped sweets and during a visit to the teacher's office I discovered that Mia has a secret addiction to them that has resulted in her filling up the advent calender several times over. 
My job was to talk to the students about the differences between English, French and Swedish schools. They were most interested in asking about what the school uniform and make up rules were in England.

I found it hard to come up with things that are better in England than Sweden in terms of education not least because after 5 minutes in the school you can just feel how happy everyone is and how the students actually want to be in school.  There was such a feeling of freedom as the students are allowed to come up with their own study plans and are given lots of free time for self directed study.

There are even student offices like this one where each child has a desk and cupboard so that they can do their homework at school (although they hardly ever get homework at all).  It is not uncommon for them to hang around here together well after the end of the school day - can you imagine that in England or France?
Class sizes seemed really small and I couldn't help but notice how quiet and spacious the school was.  Here are the art, textiles and woodwork shop - pretty good resources for a school with 400 pupils.

Can you see the traditional Swedish loom that came from the house in the countryside to be lent to the school?  We'll have to get that back to the barn so I can have a play on it one day.
I I also discovered a building with animals in and it looks like they have won a few awards of some kind.
Classes finished at 3.30pm and look how dark it was by then!
 Thanks Mia (and all the students) for a lovely day! 


  1. I just love this free school idea. It has always been a dream of mine to start a school something like Mia's! Thank you so much for sharing. I am a teacher here in the U.S., and as I've mentioned before, I have some Swedish ancestors as well...so I found your blog post doubly interesting. Happy holidays!

    1. Oh I wanted to ask you about your ancestors Melissa. Do you know where they were from?

  2. How interesting !!!
    As a teacher, I too consider this a dream school...
    In Europe this is well known that Swedish education is one fo the best for the students.
    I love the shoes at the entrance ...
    When you spoke to them, was it in English ?

    1. Hi Mymy, yes I spoke English. It amazes me that absolutely everyone her speaks English. My father in law says he can't speak any English and yet appears pretty fluent to me lol.

  3. Looks amazing. You are so lucky uoi will get to raise your kids there.


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