When the coronavirus threw the education system in Sweden into disarray at the start of 2020, a collaborative project called Skola Hemma (Eng: School at Home) was launched by the Swedish National Agency for Education, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), Swedish Edtech Industry, the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company (UR) and RISE. The project is intended to serve as a compass to support operators in Swedish education and to offer support and cooperation in the challenges associated with teaching remotely. The aim being to provide continuity for teaching and learning while, at the same time, following the authorities’ recommendations to curb the spread of infection.
At the end of January 2020, Sweden confirmed its first case of Covid-19. Shortly thereafter, and as a direct result of how hard the virus had hit schools in Asia, representatives of RISE contacted the Swedish National Agency for Education and SALAR to find out how the Swedish education system was preparing for a potentially similar situation.
– “In light of the alarming developments we could see in other countries, we realised that Sweden needed to accelerate work to reduce the negative consequences of the pandemic in the school system,” says Carl Heath, Director of Education at RISE.
Skola Hemma was launched on 12 March after agreement was reached between the Swedish National Agency for Education and RISE. SALAR, Swedish Edtech Industry and UR were soon linked to the project, and work commenced to develop support resources for school boards along with an accompanying website.
– “It was apparent fairly quickly that we would need to develop some form of active support for our country’s schools, school boards, principals and teachers in order to facilitate remote teaching,” says Kjell Hedwall, Head of the School Development department at the Swedish National Agency for Education. “Something was going to happen that would significantly challenge the school system in a way we had never experienced before, and which would require extraordinary efforts.”
This type of cooperation – that was so swift and provided such simple, solid support – exists nowhere else
Intensive development work
After a few days of intensive work, the website skolahemma.se was launched on 16 March. The site serves as a hub for school staff to find information from authorities, download educational materials, and receive support for remote teaching with digital tools. In the first week after the launch, support materials were downloaded from the website roughly 50,000 times, and the project was widely shared via social channels.
– “The site was created very quickly and it quickly became popular amongst the target audience,” says Per-Arne Andersson, Department Manager at SALAR. “We correctly prioritised the things necessary for school boards, principals and teachers.”
On 17 March 2020 – the day after the skolahemma.se launched – the government announced the Public Health Agency of Sweden’s recommendation that all teaching in upper secondary schools, adult education centres and universities should be carried out remotely from 18 March.
– “I think the Swedish National Agency for Education made a very brave decision,” says Jannie Jeppesen, CEO of Swedish Edtech Industry. “This type of cooperation – that was so swift and provided such simple, solid support – exists nowhere else. It’s totally unique.”
The project enabled increased openness and generated enthusiasm in the collaboration
Clearer structure and more partners
After the first few busy weeks for Skola Hemma, collaborative structures were established between the original partners in the project. Gradually, more organisations joined the project: the Swedish Institute for Educational Research, the National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools, Save the Children, the Gothenburg Region, the Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia Foundation, and the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education.
The website was redesigned to offer more types of support materials, and a national conference attracting 5,000 participants was held online in order to enhance remote teaching and enable experience exchange among educational organisations. Minister for Education Anna Ekström was a speaker at the conference, and said: “I see students struggling, but also students who are acting responsibly. I see a generation that has proven that it is responsible.”
Scenario planning for the autumn term
Prior to the start of the 2020 autumn term, Skola Hemma will attempt to determine what form the term start will take under the ongoing pandemic by means of scenario planning, a structured planning method for an uncertain future. In the same way that previous material was published on skolahemma.se, the scenario planning is iterative and subject to change as new knowledge becomes available and the global situation changes. The material can also be adapted for use in individual organisations.
– “It is not claimed that the material is complete or exhaustive, but it is meant to be used and further developed based on local circumstances and prevailing conditions,” says Heath.
Just over three months after the launch of Skola Hemma, it is clear to the participating organisations that the project has made a difference and provided crucial support to schools, teachers and school boards, and that it was launched at the right time. The project has also united authorities and organisations in terms of working methods and with unprecedented speed and focus.
– “The project enabled increased openness and generated enthusiasm in the collaboration,” says Gabriella Thinsz, Content Manager at UR.
– “I’m very pleased with what has been done,” says Hedwall. “I can see that Skola Hemma and the support we have provided has been hugely beneficial to the school system in Sweden.”