Sweden has a system with grant-aided independent schools (fristående skolor) parallel to the municipal schools. The system applies for preschool (förskola), compulsory school (grundskola) and upper secondary school (gymnasieskola). Both municipal and independent schools at the compulsory level are grant-aided and free of charge, see 3.1 - Funding. The municipality allocates resources to approved grant-aided independent schools for the children that participate in its' activities. The Swedish Schools Inspectorate monitors the quality of the education and makes sure that regulations are followed. If a school charges fees from its pupils or infer negative consequences for the school system in the municipality, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) can deny entitlement to municipal resources.
Early Childhood Education and Care
Alongside the early childhood education and care organised by municipalities, there are grant-aided independent preschools, preschool classes, school and leisure-time centres. They have a different principal organiser than the municipality or county council. Most preschools (Förskolor) and school-age childcare are run by municipalities. The majority of children, 80 percent, are enrolled in municipal preschools (9813 municipal preschools in 2016/17) and the remaining 20 percent are enrolled in independently run preschools (2 708 preschools 2016/17).
There were 3643 preschool classes (förekoleklasser) in 2016/17. Out of these, 3 040 were municipal and 582 grant-aided independent preschool classes. In addition, there were 11 preschool classes with state funding as well as 10 connected to international schools.
Approval of grant-aided independent preschools and preschool classes operated by a company, association, foundation or private individual should be dealt with by the municipality where the education is provided. The municipality is also responsible for the quality assurance of the preschool education. The Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) decide whether to approve applications from prospective grant-aided preschools, schools and leisure-time centres.
Compulsory schools (grundskolor) can be run either by municipalities or independently in so-called grant-aided independent schools (fristående skolor). Independent schools at the compulsory level are funded by municipal grants from the pupils' home municipalities and by state grants, i.e. are grant-aided and free of charge. Grant-aided schools as a general rule are not allowed to charge fees. There were 4 847 compulsory schools in Sweden in the academic year 2016/17, of which 4 007 were municipal and 820 independent.
Seventeen percent of the Swedish compulsory schools were grant-aided independent schools in the academic year 2016/17. Some grant-aided independent schools have a specific orientation, including special teaching methods (Montessori or Waldorf/Steiner), a linguistic orientation, or are schools with a certain religious denomination or schools run by parents/guardians organisations or private companies. Grant-aided independent schools have to be approved by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen). If the school does not comply with current regulations, the Schools Inspectorate can withdraw its permit. Conditions for approval include that the school's education fulfils the general goals of the compulsory school, that the school has at least 20 pupils (unless there are specific reasons why there should be fewer) and that they do not charge fees.
When approved, the school is entitled to financial support. Approved schools receive a grant from the home municipality of their pupils. Each municipality determines the amount to be granted for each pupil, taking into account the schools' commitments and pupils’ needs. The decisions should be based on the same principles as when allocating resources to municipal compulsory schools. If the establishment of an independently run school creates severe problems for the municipal schools in the municipality, the Schools Inspectorate can deny its right to financial support.
Grant-aided independent schools are obliged to give their municipality insight into the school's activities. According to the Education Act (Skollagen), grant-aided independent schools should be open to all pupils who are entitled to equivalent education within the public education system. Like municipal schools, independently run schools be based on democratic values and their activities should be governed by openness, tolerance and objectivity and be all-around in character. Within the framework of these requirements, an independently run school may have a denominational orientation.
Upper Secondary Schools
In parallel with the municipal upper secondary schools, there are grant-aided independent upper secondary schools. Independent grant-aided upper secondary schools 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, but there are also schools with alternative pedagogical approaches. Grant-aided independent schools are required to follow the curriculum and the national syllabi. They are regulated in the Education Act (Skollagen) and in the Upper Secondary School Ordinance (Gymnasieförordningen). In 2016/17 there were 1 313 upper secondary schools, of which 870 were municipal, and 428 grant-aided independent upper secondary schools. The remaining 15 were run by the county council (Landstinget).
Grant-aided independent upper secondary schools 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 School 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 school year 2014/15, 452 out of a total of 1328 upper secondary schools were independent schools (34%), a figure which can be compared with 82 out of a total of 638 upper secondary schools in 1999 (13%). 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 grant is determined on the same grounds as when the municipality distributes resources to its own schools for the same programme. In case the municipality doesn’t offer the programme in question, the payment to the schools is based on a national price list settled every year by the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket).
Swedish Association of Independant Schools (Friskolornas riksförbund)
Other Private Schools
There are sixteen international schools at compulsory level. The international schools have pupils who are resident in Sweden for shorter periods (children of diplomats, researchers etc), but can also admit other pupils. The international schools may apply for grants from the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) and are permitted to charge reasonable fees. There are five international schools at upper secondary level.
There are three boarding schools with national admissions which offer education primarily for children of foreign-based Swedish parents. Municipalities and private organisers can provide nation-wide boarding education. State grants are provided for pupils of foreign-based Swedish parents whilst home municipalities pay for other pupils using the same criteria as when allocating resources to the municipalities' own schools. Costs that are not covered by the state grant or by funds from municipalities may be covered by fees charged to pupils.
The Education Act (Skollagen)
The Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket)
The Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen)