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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Early childhood and school education funding


3.Funding in education

3.1Early childhood and school education funding

Last update: 27 November 2023


Municipal tax revenues are the municipality's main source of income. Apart from the income taxes which finance the majority of municipal education the municipalities also receive a state grant which is not earmarked for a specific activity. The structural element of the grant is determined by several underlying factors such as the size of the population in the municipality, its age structure, population density, social structure and number of immigrants. In the decentralised Swedish system, each municipality determines how it allocates resources and organises its activities and uses the budget. The municipalities are obliged to provide their inhabitants with certain services and often supply additional non-compulsory services such as cultural and leisure activities.

In the area of education, the municipality must fulfil its obligations regarding activities and quality in accordance with the Education Act. The municipality usually has its own local board of education or similar, which decides on the allocation of funds between different schools in the municipality. This local body also decides on the funds to be allocated to grant-aided independent schools in the municipality. There are no national regulations on how resources should be allocated between schools; each municipality develops its own allocation system, however, the systems are quite similar. Often a basic amount is determined for each pupil and on top of that additional resources are added for pupils with special needs etc. The costs vary between the municipalities (for example the need to provide school transport varies between the vast regions which are sparsely populated and the bigger cities etc.).

School funding is shared between state and municipalities. State funds are paid as what is called ‘the general state grant’ to the 290 municipalities. Each municipality then allocates resources to individual schools. The preschool (förskolan) is financed partly in the same way but also charges fees to cover part of its costs. The amount of these fees is regulated and a maximum fee determined centrally. The municipalities may receive revenues from municipal taxes to finance municipal activities. Sami schools (sameskolan) and schools for pupils with impaired hearing (specialskola) are financed directly by the state. Higher education at universities and university colleges is also financed directly from the state budget. Schools at the compulsory level, municipal as well as grant-aided independent, are funded by municipal grants from the pupils' home municipalities and by state grants, i.e. are grant-aided and free of charge (and this includes school meals, tools and equipment as well).

Funding for Early Childhood Education and Care

Preschool (förskolan) takes various forms; preschool (förskola), pedagogical care (often called ‘family day care homes’) (familjedaghem) and open preschool (öppen förskola). Preschools and school-age childcare are financed by state grants, municipal grants and fees. The state grant provided to the municipalities takes account of additional resources needed for children with special needs. The state grants are then distributed by the municipalities.

The majority of preschool teachers, leisure-time pedagogues, teachers and head teachers are employed by the municipality. The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (Sveriges kommuner och regioner, SKR) negotiates with the teachers' central unions over principal agreements on salaries and working conditions. The responsibility for setting preschool teachers’ salaries is usually decentralised to the individual preschool where negotiations take place between the employer and the teacher and one of the teacher unions based on the central agreements.

Funding of Primary and Secondary Education

Schools at compulsory level, municipal as well as grant-aided independent schools, are funded by municipal grants from the pupils' home municipalities and by state grants, i.e. both types of schools are grant-aided and free of charge.

Funding of Upper Secondary Education

Municipal upper secondary schools are grant-aided and free of charge. Independent schools at upper secondary level are generally grant-aided. Grant-aided schools are not allowed to charge fees.

The Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket)

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (Sveriges kommuner och regioner, SKR)

The Education Act (Skollagen)

Financial Autonomy and Control

The responsibility for determining teachers’ salaries is usually decentralised to the individual school in cooperation with the teacher concerned and one of the teacher trade unions. These negotiations are based on the central agreement between the SKR and the unions. Most leisure-time pedagogues, teachers and school heads are employed by the municipality and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (Sveriges kommuner och regioner, SKR), negotiates with the teacher trade unions over salaries and working conditions.

When it comes to capital expenditures such as school buildings, the municipalities show a less uniform pattern. Some municipalities prefer to decentralise responsibilities for such expenditures to each individual school, while others keep responsibility for local costs at the municipal level. Additionally, some municipalities choose to handle capital expenditures within other areas, for instance within their own administration for planning and buildings.

Fees within Public Education

Preschool fees are decided by each municipality. They are related to family income, the number of children in the family attending preschool or school-age childcare (skolbarnsomsorg). The municipalities that choose to apply the maximum fee undertake not to charge fees above a certain threshold level, for which they receive a special state grant to compensate for the loss of revenue. All Swedish municipalities have decided to introduce maximum fees. The maximum fee for preschool and school-age childcare is based on a fixed percentage of the parents’ income. It starts at three percent (maximum SEK 1572 per month in 2022) for one child in preschool, 2 percent for the second, 1 percent for the third child and no fee for the fourth child. For school-age childcare, the fee is two percent of the income (maximum SEK 1 048 per month in 2022) for one child, 1 percent for the second and third child and no fee for the fourth child. The Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) presented an evaluation of the reform in 2007 which showed that the maximum fee has increased the number of children enrolled in preschool care and it has thus levelled some of the socio-economic differences between children from different socio-economic strata. This goes especially for children whose parents are on parental leave from work with a younger child and those who are unemployed, both categories have the right to 15 hours childcare per week. In some municipalities, the organisation experienced problems catering for all the so-called ’15-hour children’ who attend the preschool three hours every working day.

The Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket)

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (Sveriges kommuner och regioner)

Financial Support for Learners' Families

Financial Support for Learners' Families of Pupils with Special Educational Needs

Compulsory school is free of charge and pupils have free access to books, tools and other aids needed for education. However, certain activities may involve additional accessories that pupils may purchase at low cost. Pupils in compulsory school (grundskola), have a legal right to free meals during the school day. The municipality is by law obliged to provide free school transport for those pupils who need it due to distance, traffic conditions or other circumstances. This obligation does not apply to pupils who choose to attend another school than that proposed by the municipality.

All children in Sweden are entitled to a general child allowance up to and including the quarter of a year, they become 16 years of age. Thereafter the extended child allowance covers the months remaining in compulsory school after the pupil turned 16.

Financial Support for Learners

All children receive a child allowance irrespective of whether they attend preschool (förskola) or not. The preschool fees are generally related to family income but vary somewhat between municipalities. The maximum fee (maxtaxan) takes into account the number of children from one family that are attending preschool (förskola) or school-age childcare (skolbarnsomsorg), thus regulating families’ maximum cost for childcare. For further information on the maximum fee, see 3.1 - Fees within public education.

Municipalities can choose whether to apply a so-called child-raising allowance for parents who choose not to have their children in preschool. Instead, the parents can get an allowance per month and child, for children over the age of 1 but younger than 3. The child-raising allowance can be combined with paid employment, in this way parents can spend more time with their children.

Full time studying pupils in upper secondary school (gymnasieskolan) over the age of 16 receive a general non-refundable study grant, currently SEK 1250 per month in 2018 (before the age of 16 a child allowance of the same amount is granted to the pupil’s parents/guardians) if present when not sick or given the permission to be absent. The school is responsible for reporting pupil’s absence to The Swedish Board for Student Support (Centrala studiestödsnämnden, CSN) in order for study grants to be distributed only those who meet these presence criteria. In addition to the general study grant, there is a needs-related supplement based on the total income per year of the pupil and the parents/guardians, introduced to broaden the intake to upper secondary education. There is also a board and lodging allowance to counteract geographic obstacles for those pupils who cannot live with their families during upper secondary school, see 6.1 - Geographical Accessibility.

The Swedish Board of Student Finance (Centrala Studiestödsnämnden, CSN)

Travel and lodging

The law states that the home municipality of the pupil is responsible for the pupil's daily travelling costs between home and school if the distance is at least six kilometers. This responsibility applies to pupils attending upper secondary schools. If a pupil chooses a different kind of transport the municipality is not obliged to meet the additional costs. A municipality can choose to provide financial support for board and lodging, instead of covering costs of transport between a pupil's home and school.

Teaching material and meals

Upper secondary school education shall be free of charge to pupils. Students shall without payment have access to books, tools and other aids that are needed for a modern education. The entity responsible for the education may however decide that pupils shall, occasionally, pay for personal aids. There may be parts of the education that cause pupils negligible expense. The school organiser decides whether school meals are free or not.

Private Education

Parallel with the municipal upper secondary schools (gymnasieskola), there are grant-aided independent upper secondary schools. Grant-aided independent upper secondary schools (fristående skola) are generally grant-aided. Grant-aided independent schools, like schools run by a municipality, as a general rule are not allowed to charge fees. There are also 3 grant-aided International schools at upper secondary level. For more information on International schools, see 5.4 - Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures. Another form of education at secondary level and post secondary level provided by independent organisers is supplementary education programmes (kompletterande utbildningar) organised within Higher Vocational Education (yrkeshögskolan) or by organisers of preparatory programmes for higher education within the arts.

The Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket)

Grant-aided independent upper secondary schools (fristående skola) have nation-wide recruitment and are not permitted to charge pupil’s fees, application fees, queuing or registration fees.

The majority of grant-aided independent schools at upper secondary level have a general orientation. Grant-aided independent schools are, in principle, required to follow the curriculum and the national syllabi. They are regulated in the Education Act and in a special ordinance on grant-aided independent schools (SFS 1996:1206).

Grant-aided independent upper secondary

Education in a grant-aided independent upper secondary school should provide knowledge and skills that correspond to those provided by the national and specially designed programmes in municipal upper secondary schools. Grant-aided independent upper secondary schools should fulfil the general goals of the upper secondary school and be directed by the core values that are the basis for the public school system. They should be open to all pupils who are entitled to equivalent education within the public education system. The independently run schools should also fulfil any additional requirements decided by the Government, i.e. on entrance conditions. A school that meets these conditions may be declared entitled to receive public funds by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen), providing the school's activities do not have obvious negative consequences on the municipal school system in the municipality where the school is located, or in municipalities nearby.

In 1992 the requirements on grant-aided independent schools changed and since then the number of independently run upper secondary schools has been increasing. In 2018, 433 out of a total of 1316 upper secondary schools were independent schools (33%).The supervision of grant-aided independent schools is carried out by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen). Municipalities are entitled to scrutinise the activities of grant-aided independent schools.

When a pupil chooses to study at a grant-aided independent school the resources that would otherwise be allocated for its education in a municipal school will be redistributed to the grant-aided independent school. The pupils home municipality must pay a grant, determined on the same grounds as if applied by that municipality when distributing resources to its own schools for the same programme. In cases when the municipality doesn’t offer the programme in question, the payment to the schools is based on a national price list which is settled yearly by the Swedish National Agency for Education.

The Education Ordinance (Skolförordning)

The Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket)

The Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen)