Early childhood education and care can be divided into two main phases. Unitary preschool centres (förskola) are available for children aged between 1 and 5 years. The last year before starting primary education, 6-year-old children attend compulsory pre-primary classes (förskoleklass). In addition, there is also a home-based provision known as pedagogical care (pedagogisk omsorg), which is run by registered child minders and can be organised in various ways (i.e. either within childminders' homes or elsewhere). Many local authorities also offer ECEC services in open pre-schools (öppen förskola), where parents (or childminders) come along with their children whenever they wish. All the above provision falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Research.
From age 1, children are entitled to publicly subsidised ECEC provision and, from age 3, they are entitled to provision that is free of charge for at least 15 hours per week. Children whose parents are working or studying have the right to a publicly subsidised place in an after-school recreation centre (fritidshem).
The preschool is a center-based early childhood education and care provision for children aged between 1-5 years. Municipalities are required by the Education Act (Skollagen SFS 2010:800) to provide publicly subsidied preschool activities and childcare to all children from age 1. All children are entitled to free preschool for at least 525 hours per year (approximately 15 hours per week) from the autumn term when they turn three years old.
In 2019, 85.4 percent of children aged 1–5 years attended preschool. The percentage is lower in larger cities and higher in smaller cities. The distribution between boys and girls is generally equal. The proportion of enrolled children has increased to some extent in all age groups. 50.5 percent of one-year-olds attended preschool, 90.6 and 94.0 percent respectively of two- and three-year-olds and 95.3 percent of all four- and five-year-olds according to the statistics database of the Swedish National Agency for Education.
Grant-aided independent schools and preschools can be organised in different forms. The municipalities distribute grants to grant-aided independent preschools and they are also responsible for ensuring that the operations meet the requirements of quality and safety. The same laws and frameworks apply to grant-aided independent preschools and municipal preschools. For more information on grant-aided independent education providers, see chapter 2.4 Organisation of Private Education.
Preschool class for 6-year-olds
Starting from the autumn of 2018 the preschool class is mandatory for all children living in Sweden from the age of six. Preschool class is usually closely associated with the school the child will attend. It is mandatory for municipalities to provide preschool classes and for all six-year-olds to be offered a place for a minimum of 525 hours (approximately 15 hours per week) free-of-charge.
In the school year 2019/2020 almost 98 percent of all children aged six were enrolled in a preschool classaccording to the statistics database of the Swedish National Agency for Education. Over 10 percent of pupils attend grant-aided independently organised preschool class. The proportion of pupils attending independent facilities varies between municipalities and was highest in major cities and metropolitan municipalities.
Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care
In Sweden the alternative structures in early childhood education and care within the formal system primarly encompasses four types of care and activities for children up to the age of 12. These activities go under the name "Other pedagogical activities".
- Pedagogical care (pedagogisk omsorg) in family daycare homes (familjedaghem) is run by registered childminders in their own homes, looking after children aged one to twelve while their parents work or study.
- The Open preschool (öppen förskola) is for stay at home parents and their children. The parents together with the staff have the opportunity to develop educational group activities for the children. The children are not enrolled.
- Leisure-time centers (fritidshem) are educational group facilities, operating during the times of the day and year when schools are closed for enrolled children whose parents are working or studying or for children who are in need of the facilities. Generally leisure-time centres are integrated within schools. Leisure-time centres are aimed at children from the age of 6 up to 12 years old that attend preschool class or compulsory school.
- Care at uncomfortable times. According to the Education Act (Skollagen) the municipality should offer care for children during the times that preschool or leisure-time centres are not offered and it should be offered to the extent that is needed based on the parents work and the family situation in general.
The table below shows the different kinds of institutions in early childhood education and care. It also shows how many of them that are independently organised (the statistics are from 2019 or the school year 2019/20).
Total number of institutions
Whereof independently organised
Preschool institutions 2019/20
Pedagogical care 2019
Open preschool 2019
Source: The statistics database of the Swedish National Agency for Education