Sweden has proposed a ban on the additional fees that its national boarding schools charge parents for their children’s education. The proposal, announced by Education Minister Jan Björklund, recommends turning boarding schools into ordinary government-funded free schools.
Under the plan, the country’s three remaining boarding schools – Lundsberg School, Sigtuna Humanitarian School, and Grennaskolan – will no longer receive subsidies from Sweden’s central government. The schools will receive a set amount of money from their local municipality for each student they teach. This model is being followed by the country’s other state-funded “free schools,” writes Richard Orange of The Guardian.
“It’s hard to defend the fact that a few select schools should operate under completely different terms from all the rest,” Björklund said.
In the United Kingdom, state boarding schools charge only boarding fees while the education is state-funded. Under the free schools policy, the government is paying privately-run schools a fee for each student they educate.
Björklund said the special regulation under which the three national private boarding schools in the country are run is at odds with the free schools policy. “We want all independent schools to be open to all students regardless of their parents’ financial circumstances,” Björklund said. “It is strange that there has been a different law for these schools for more than 40 years.”
Lundsberg and Sigtuna were modeled on British public schools. The schools, which were established in 1896 and 1900 respectively, have educated much of Sweden’s royalty and business elite. Sigtuna was attended by King Carl XVI Gustaf, Marcus and Jacob Wallenberg, from Sweden’s most powerful business family, and Olof Palme, Sweden’s Prime Minister in the 1970s and the early 1980s.
Prince Carl Philip, the King’s only son, attended Lundsberg. Grennaskolan, which was founded in 1963, is less favored by the elite class.
Under the new proposals, the government will also end subsidizing boarding fees for children of Swedish parents who live abroad. According to Björklund, his plan had nothing to do with the forced closure of Lundsberg in August 2013 after a series of bullying scandals.
Lundsberg was reopened just over a week after it closed. The Swedish schools inspectorate was successfully challenged by the school’s board in the court.
“We started the investigation long before the news and I want to emphasize that the rule change has nothing to do with what has happened at Lundsberg over the past year,” Björklund said.
Johan von Schéele, chairman of the Lundsberg school foundation, said he was assured by the school’s financial department that Björklund’s plans would not bring dramatic changes. He expects the new rules to only limit the fees parents pay for teaching at the school, and not fees paid for accommodation.
The Ministry of Education spokesperson Elin Boberg confirmed that this was the case. “They will now only be allowed to take out fees for the boarding part of the schools, and that part we will not be able to regulate, so if your child is a day student at one of these schools, you will not have to pay.”