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The Swedish National Audit Office proposes new system of specific government grants to schools

The system with a broad range of specific government grants to schools is not efficient. The Swedish National Audit Office proposes that the grants be merged into one single grant that each education provider can apply for on the basis of local conditions and needs.

Primary school students in classroom.

Audit background

The State governs municipalities and county councils in several different ways. One way is through specific grants – a form of soft governance in which participation is voluntary. The grants are linked to specific activities or initiatives in municipalities or county councils.

Specific government grants have long been used to varying extents, for example to facilitate an increase in staff in prioritised areas or professional development initiatives. In the early 1990s most of the specific government grants were removed. Over time the number of grants has increased again, particularly in the area of education. In 2017 the Swedish National Agency for Education managed and allocated about SEK 15 billion in more than 70 different grants. The grants continue to increase, despite the Government’s stated ambition to reduce them.

Several different actors have criticised specific government grants to schools, as there are, among other things, too many of them and because they shift focus from the needs of the system as a whole, focusing instead on details of the system. In addition, it has been put forward that the large number of grants causes unpredictable and inconsistent governance, that the administration of the grants is disproportionately complicated and time-consuming and that the smaller education providers – municipalities as well as independent schools – are underrepresented. This criticism thus gives reason to question whether the present system of specific government grants in the area of education is characterised by high effectiveness and sound management of public funds as stipulated in the Budget Act.

Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

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Updated: 28 March 2018

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