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Shortcomings in Government initiatives for compulsory school for students with learning disabilities

Compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities are disadvantaged when the Government develops the school system in Sweden. Less support to assessment and poorer monitoring of knowledge and reporting to the Riksdag are some of the consequences.

Two students pointing to computer screen, teacher explaining.

Photo: Maskot

According to the provisions of the Education Act, all students in Swedish schools are to be given the guidance and stimulation that they need for their learning and personal development. This applies, regardless of whether the students attend compulsory school, compulsory school for students with learning disabilities or any of the other compulsory types of school.

Many of the initiatives taken by the National Agency for Education for compulsory school for students with learning disabilities maintain high standards according to teachers and principals. The audit undertaken by the Swedish National Audit Office shows, however, that compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities do not receive the same support and attention from the Government and the National Agency for Education as regular compulsory schools. For example, teachers at schools for students with learning disabilities have considerably less access to assessment support aimed at helping teachers in assessing students’ knowledge.

“Assessment support in compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities is available only in three subjects for students at junior and intermediate levels, whereas regular compulsory schools have support in assessing levels of knowledge in all subjects. This shows that the needs of compulsory schools for students with learning difficulties in terms of support in assessing knowledge have not been prioritised in the same way as those of regular schools,” says Olof Widmark, project leader for the audit.

Another example is that teachers at compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities have less extensive commentary material from the National Agency for Education, which provides more in-depth information and support in interpreting curriculums and syllabuses.

The audit also shows that follow-up and evaluation of compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities undertaken by the National Agency for Education is inadequate. In several cases, the Agency has eliminated schools for students with learning disabilities from its evaluations and there is no information on pupil’s knowledge development, the capacity of compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities to develop students’ knowledge and the differences between different compulsory schools for children with learning disabilities and school authorities. Information submitted by the Government to the Riksdag is also inadequate.

“This lack of information makes it difficult to know whether students are given the opportunity to develop as far as possible, as required by the Education Act, and whether there are differences between compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities in Sweden. It also makes it more difficult to know whether special measures need to be taken for these compulsory schools,” says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

There is also a risk that timetables for compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities are not adapted to the educational needs of students. Pupils at schools for students with learning disabilities are guaranteed a lower number of teaching hours in English than pupils of regular compulsory schools and more in other subjects, such as domestic and consumer science.

Pupils with more serious learning disabilities, who study subject areas in the training school orientation have fewer guaranteed teaching hours in total than other pupils in compulsory school for students with learning disabilities. This is despite the fact that already three years ago, the National Agency for Education drew the Government’s attention to the possibility that these discrepancies may be unjustified.

Another example is the clarifications made with regard to security and a conducive study environment in the curriculums for compulsory schools and Sami schools (that start to apply on 1 July this year) that without justification do not apply to compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities.

“Teachers and principals give the impression that compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities and those attending them are not counted in the same way as those in regular compulsory schools. With regard to central government initiatives in this area, our audit unfortunately shows that this view is somewhat justified”, says Helena Lindberg.

Recommendations

It is recommended that the National Agency for Education:

  • ensures that teachers in compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities are given sufficient support to be able to assess students’ knowledge
  • develops follow-up and evaluations of schools for students with learning disabilities, so that they provide information on whether pupils are given good opportunities to achieve as many of their educational goals as possible, based on their abilities
  • ensures that compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities are clearly taken into account in the Agency’s internal control.

It is recommended that the Government:

  • develops its reporting to the Riksdag on whether schools for students with learning disabilities are achieving the goals of their education.
  • reviews the timetables for subjects and subject areas in schools for students with learning difficulties.

Facts: Compulsory school for students with learning disabilities

There are four types of compulsory school in Sweden: Compulsory schools, Sami schools, special needs schools and schools for students with learning disabilities.

Compulsory school for students with learning disabilities are for children who, because of Like other types of schools, compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities entail nine years of compulsory school for all children and young people between the ages of 7 and 16.

Some 11,000 students currently attend compulsory schools for students with learning disabilities.

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

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

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Updated: 14 May 2019

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