Research Paper 18: Swedish Free Schools: Do they work?

Author: Susanne Wiborg


This paper is a contribution to the debate in England about the new Coalition Government’s plans to encourage interested parties to set up so-called Free Schools. In developing this policy, the new Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has said he was influenced by the introduction of Charter Schools in the USA and Free Schools in Sweden. This paper argues that, in order to understand how free schools in Sweden operate, it is paramount to see them in the context of the Swedish school system of which they are an integral part. The paper presents findings from research on the performance of Swedish free schools and discusses the evolution of Swedish educational policy leading up to their establishment.