Introduction to the Swedish school market

IES is an independent provider operating within the publicly funded school system in Sweden. IES is mainly active within compulsory education (Sv. grundskola), focusing on grades 4 to 9. At the beginning of the academic year 2016/17, IES was the provider (Sv. huvudman) of 29 compulsory schools and one upper secondary school (Sv: gymnasieskola) in Sweden. IES also operates one school in England on behalf of a trust. In July 2016, IES signed a conditional agreement to acquire 50 percent of the shares in the three companies that together form Grupo Educativo Elians. The group operates schools spanning from pre-school to upper secondary school. Two of these schools follow the British curriculum and the third school follows a bilingual Spanish curriculum. As IES’ foreign operations currently represent less than one percent of the IES business, this section will primarily cover the Swedish compulsory school system.

The Swedish school system covers preschool (Sv. “förskola”) to adult education. Preschool and the preschool class (Sv. förskoleklass) are voluntary, while compulsory school is mandatory for nine years (grades 1 to 9) and upper secondary school is voluntary for three years. The school system is regulated by the State through the Swedish Education Act (2010:800) (Sv. Skollagen), regulations on schooling and national authorities. Education is provided by independent education providers (Sv. enskilda huvudmän) with their own licenses from the State (via the Swedish Schools Inspectorate), or provided by municipal education providers (Sv. kommunala huvudmän).

Operations conducted by independent schools are financed by municipal vouchers, but the municipality is not the provider and has no responsibility for the operations of the independent providers. The basis for the reimbursement provided to independent schools is also regulated at national level, in accordance with the principle of equal treatment of municipal schools and independent schools1.

In fall 2015, approximately 2.4 million students participated in the Swedish school system (excluding adult education), approximately 40 percent of whom – or 985,620 students – attended compulsory school. The number of students in the Swedish school system has increased over the past five years, with the exception of the upper secondary school level. In fall 2015, the share of students attending an independent compulsory school was 15 percent, which is lower than in upper secondary school and preschool, where the corresponding shares were 26 percent and 20 percent respectively.

The total costs to the municipalities for the education system, including before-school and after-school care and other teaching activities but excluding adult education, amounted to approximately SEK 224 billion for the 2014 calendar year, with compulsory school representing approximately SEK 91 billion or around 40 percent of the total costs.

Compulsory school education in Sweden is mandatory for all children from the calendar year in which the child turns seven. It is then compulsory for nine years or at latest until the child reaches 18 years of age.

In October 2015, there were 985,620 students attending compulsory school, 35 percent of whom were in grades 1–3, 33 percent in grades 4–6 and 32 percent in grades 7–9.

As education is mandatory, the number of students attending compulsory school largely follows the development of the population of school-age children. Between the 2001/02 and 2010/11 academic years student numbers decreased each year, driven by low birth rates in Sweden during the 1990s. Since the fall of 2010, the student body has increased by an average growth rate of around 2 percent per year. In the same period, the number of students choosing to attend independent schools has increased by an average growth rate of around 7 percent per year. In the 2015/16 academic year, 15 percent or 145,471 students attended an independent compulsory school.

1Bill 2008/09:171