Case against free schools short on facts

16th April 2010 at 01:00

In your article "Swedish warning: do not repeat our free school errors" (April 2), you report on critical comments made by Ann-Christin Larsson, a representative of Swedish teaching union Lararforbundet, about the country's free school model.

Some of Ms Larsson's points are wrong or have a weak scientific basis. They might be political opinions, but not facts. The independent free school sector in Sweden has grown from almost nothing to more than 1,000 schools with some 160,000 students since the reforms of 1992. Not all are considered best in class, but they generally deliver higher academic achievement at a lower cost than comparable schools. That is a fact, even taking into account adjustments for socio-economic differences.

It is also a fact that all schools - state and free - perform better in areas where educational choice has resulted from competition. Needless to say, these schools are much appreciated by the families and teachers who have chosen them.

We should acknowledge there are problems in Swedish society. But neither the free school nor the state school sector is the cause or the single solution, as Ms Larsson suggests. She says free schools "have not created any new pedagogical ideas". As representatives of the teaching union at Kunskapsskolan, we feel obliged to inform your readers that, on this point, Ms Larsson is not only wrong, but is not even speaking for her members.

At Kunskapsskolan, we are some of the 700 teachers working every day with pedagogical development and innovation. We have chosen to work for Kunskapsskolan, in part for the opportunities for professional development that were not afforded in conventional state schools.

We believe in the importance of strong trade union representation for teachers, but we are also convinced that it is not in the interests of pedagogical development, nor in the best interests of students and families, and certainly not of teachers and their unions, to return to the times when our profession had in practice one single, monopolist employer and a single pedagogical idea.

Robert Rasmussen, Lararnas Riksforbun, Regina Hansson, Lararforbundet.

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