If you are feeling even the tiniest bit emotional about your child starting school in Sweden, I recommend that you do not listen to Abba’s weep-along smash hit Slipping Through My Fingers. However, if you do feel tempted to press play and have a little cry over the first line Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning, waving goodbye, I suggest that you do it when you are actually trying to get a child to get their school things ready and leave the house in the early morning.
Because if your place is anything like ours, getting out of the house will be quite unlike the dreamy, calm, melodic picture painted in the song and you will instantly be snapped out of any rush of sentimentality….until maybe you get to the school gates perhaps for the actual dropoff lämning.
For all families, these new starts are a big deal, but if you are an international family starting school in Sweden, you may find that you’re dealing not only with the emotional aspect of the transition, but the practical too.
Sweden’s education system utbildningssystem may look very different from the one you are used to and this can lead to many questions….
- Do they wear a school uniform skoluniform?
- Should I send them with a packed lunch matsäck?
- What outdoor clothes ytterkläder/utekläder do I need to get for them? What else should they bring in their school bag skolväska?
…to name but a few.
Of course, there is no single answer, as details will vary from school to school, but broadly speaking there is no school uniform in Sweden, and a hot lunch is provided every day. Text books can be borrowed and stationery is provided.
In terms of clothing and equipment, ask the school what they recommend…
Vad behöver hon ta med sig till skolan? What does she need to bring with her to school?
Får/behöver han ta med en pennfodral/vattenflaska/frukt? May he/does he need to bring a pencil case/water bottle/piece of fruit?
Vad behöver de ha för kläder behöver de ha för utelek/ gympa/idrott? What clothes do they need for outdoor play/gym/sport?
For an illustrated bilingual English-Swedish to outdoor clothing for kids, you can download the Swedish for Parents free layering guide here.
Something else you might be wondering is whether your child will get any extra support if Swedish is not their first language…
The good news is that, yes, they will! Sweden has a fantastic system of mother tongue support modersmålsstöd, whereby multilingual schoolchildren flerspråkiga skolbarn (and some preschoolers förskolebarn) are entitled to regular lessons (often an hour a week) with a multilingual superhero, ready to provide language and literacy support in the pupil’s home language. Otherwise known as mother tongue teachers modersmålslärare, these specialist educators are a fantastic resource for international families in Sweden, and demonstrate the Swedish government’s commitment to learners’ rights to develop both Swedish and their first language(s). Provided there are five children in your municipality kommun who require mother tongue tuition in the same language and an appropriate teacher can be found, your child will be able to get mother tongue tuition, and older pupils may also be able to get help from a mother tongue study guide studiehandledare to support their learning.
With many schools starting back during week 34, it’s time to get rucksacks packed and ready to go.
And if you’re planning to listen to the Abba song, get the tissues at the ready. And maybe also wine.