Day Two: Monday 22nd October
We were lucky enough to have our first presentation in the municipality building in Jafalla,
rich with history and culture, it was the perfect setting for the start of our trip. We had a short welcome from the new major Emma Feldman, who seemed genuinely excited by the collaboration of teachers across Europe. We learnt , about the Swedish education system and were very interested to learn that the Pre-School class as of this autumn, which children attend at 6 years has now become compulsory. This class was already attended by 98% of children, the reasons for moving this to Compulsory are the positive impact it has for the Swedish children as they move into the more formal schooling at 7.
Through the presentation, they were very clear about the emphasis on process within their teaching. They are not bogged down with League tables and OFSTED inspections. However underperforming schools do have their own concerns with the possibility of being financially fined if the school is not performing as expected. This created a very interesting discussion regarding the importance of process within teaching and the accountability of a test related system.
We moved onto a visit to a local primary school called Aspasskolan where we had a fabulous lunch with the children and were shown the autonomy of their lunchtime routine. Children independently helping themselves to butter and crisp-breads. When they finished someone in each class is chosen to have the responsibility to clean the tables. The atmosphere is calm and cheerful with teachers and children enjoying lunch together. The school has a ‘ food wish’ in which the children are able to request food today they would like. Today there was carrot soup which was a food wish! We where most impressed that the self-service kitchen roll holders on each table had been made in woodwork by the children themselves.
We then had a further presentation on the history of gender in Sweden. It started a long time ago in the 13th century where women where first given the right to inherit property (only half but still!) It was explained that the emphasis on gender and anti-discriminatory practice has been written into the curriculum. This is both the preschool curriculum and the primary curriculum. For example:
‘The pre school has a responsibility to counteract traditional gender roles that limit the children’s development, choices and learning.’ It is these powerful statements that help to guide teachers and leaders in schools to implement changes that help to add to the goal of a gender equal society.
Then we had a tour around the school and got to see some children in after-school clubs.
These were woodwork and sewing and the children were keen to talk to us. I’m sure that’s what they were doing. One played the English national anthem on his phone for us.
We were delighted when a Student from the serene class presented us with a cushion that had been made that day. ‘This is for the teachers in England’.
Day Three: Tuesday 23rd October
Today we visited Berghemskolan. We were led by Mrs Pernilla Segerbreg. She works in the school as an English teacher and she is also leading a group in the school about equality. We had a fascinating presentation and discussions around the topics of gender and identity .
She spoke about the difference between social goals for the children to achieve against knowledge goals. We felt that there was such a strong emphasis on knowledge goals for very young children in England. Whereas in Sweden they passionately believe that they have to achieve social goals before they can even begin to succeed in the knowledge goals.
The school have a plan in which they highlight the different aspects of Equality they are going to look at during each calendar month. This plan is created by the staff, children and parents and each year it is revisited and updated. Current title for this plan is “Against Offensive Treatment and Discrimination”. The teacher created two versions of the plan, one which is text which is for staff and families and one which has many pictures and is aimed at children. They have created a survey about how children feel within school they evaluate their responses and this data feed into the Plan.
This creates a discussion regarding the terms ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ and what other terms can be used. We were lucky enough to have a visit from five of the children who are in the equality group within school. They were very articulate and enthusiastic and where able to speak truly amazing English.
Some of the quotes that they said include:
- “You can marry who you want doesn’t matter”.
- “I do like to sing more than football actually”.
- “My dad inspires me as he gives me hope for success”.
- “I hate pink and I do Thai boxing and my friends think it’s okay”.
These children are so interesting to listen to and had a great deal to say on the topic. They’re very keen to speak English to us and one of them even wants to move to an English speaking country.
Then we had a lovely lunch at school which included a large range of salads to choose from. Then went on a tour of the school and had further discussions.
Afternoon consisted of a short but sweet cultural tour in the centre of Stockholm Old town we just managed to see the changing of the guard and were introduced to the smallest statue which gives good luck. From here we visited a crypt and made our way to the evening meal.
Day Four: Wednesday 24th October
Day full started with a breathtaking walk in the winter sunshine to Skalbyskolan,
Here we were met by the deputy head teacher. We had a brief talk about gender and then the whole morning were shown around the school, it was a large school and it included a pre school.
We chatted with the preschool teacher (Equivalent Year 1) when her children were out to play ( 50 minutes !!!). Today was an important day as it highlighted the rights of the child and there were many activities taking place to reflect this . We were very interested in the amount of time the teachers gave to talking to the children and the children talking to each other.
The classrooms were homely and not over cluttered. We noticed a lack of stuff. Everything was used well. The children weren’t pressured into doing anything. They were able to spend time just chilling on the sofa before lunch.
We then went for a very early lunch where we had a great deal of choice this included feta salad and picked herring! Having recently re developed their lunch hall they have built a room for children who need a quieter space to eat there lunch . This can be self regulated by the children or teacher led.
We then rushed over to central Stockholm to see our first LGTBQ accredited pre school.
With 63 children on roll it was a fascinating place to see. The first thing see when you walk in the door is a small display of gender stereotypes being challenged.
The classic display of family members that we often see in early years has been extended to include a broader variety of families such as families with disabilities, with same-sex parents, with older parents. This display is alongside the children’s families and helps to develop discussion regarding family units and helps to emphasise the idea that there is not a ‘normal’ version of the family everyone is unique and different just as each child is unique and different.
We also saw a great deal of construction including Lego room, a resource called ‘plus plus’ which is a small interlocking pieces that children can use in very open-minded ways. We had that discussion regarding how they support children and families. It took that school eight months to getting the accreditation and they have to retake it every two years. It is expensive but it goes towards a not-for-profit company that works to enable rights for LGBTQ Community and supports their courses in different ways.