Tory school reforms have seen falling standards and rising segregation in Sweden

The head of Sweden's Ofsted has said that the reforms introduced in the country, reforms the Conservatives seek to emulate, have "not led to better results".

The head of Sweden’s Ofsted – the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) – has said that the reforms introduced in the country, reforms the Conservatives seek to emulate, have “not led to better results”.

Speaking on last night’s Newsnight, Per Thullberg, general director of Skolverket, added that although students in the new schools may have better standards, it is because of “their parents, their backgrounds; they come from well-educated families”.

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Shadow Education Secretary Michael Gove has repeatedly praised the Swedish system, a position from which he’s refusing to back down. Following Mr Thullberg’s Newsnight interview Gove insisted:

“Standards have increased but also, there is no evidence of segregation.”

It is not only Mr Thullberg’s comments that should cause Gove to rethink, but the evidence from the Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMMS) which, as Left Foot Forward reported last month, revealed that England is ranked several places higher than Sweden in Maths and Science.

Questions also remain over the cost of the proposed reforms, with Gove claiming they would cost no more money – yet his deputy, Nick Gibb, last week said that there needed to be capacity in the system, though it would not be “a huge cost”.

In Sweden, according to a 2006 Skolverket report:

“90 per­cent of the municipalities with independent schools consider that independent schools being set up led to significant increases in costs to varying degrees.”

And, to make matters worse for the Shadow Education Secretary, several leading Conservative councillors have expressed concerns over the policy. Paul Carter, leader of Kent County Council, in an interview on The Politics Show last month, said:

“I’ve got enormous reservations. I’d like to talk about some of the consequences of freeing up too far.

“We have a duty to educate all children and if schools are going off randomly, setting out different standards, different rules and regulations, it’s very very difficult to have a coherent education system in a town, in a county the size and scale of Kent.”

Cllr David Kirk, speaking on the same programme, added:

“It is difficult to understand at the moment, where, in a time of constraint, financial constraint, when we are very worried actually about what our budget levels will be in future in the immediate future, how one could manage to effectively subsidise a number of surplus places throughout the area in order to provide this greater choice.

“Choice is something we would all dearly love to be able to offer – but choice costs.”

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