“Ever dreamt of starting up your own primary school? Then we have a great opportunity for you!”
A permit to run a “free school”, which is publicly-funded but privately-managed, was auctioned on the popular Swedish buy-sell site Blocket, exploiting a legal loophole and angering politicians and educationists alike, according to The Local. The advert, first posted on January 4, was taken down on Monday.
The permit would have allowed potential buyers to set up a primary school in the city of Malmö for up to 180 students without first having been vetted by the Schools Inspectorate, the Guardian reported. All for only 500,000 Swedish kronor ($72,000).
EUCommerce, a brokerage firm representing the seller, told prospective buyers: “If you want to avoid all the red tape for the ambitious and serious project of starting a school, this is a fantastic opportunity… The only remaining work to do is to find a suitable location for the school, new staff, etc.” The school would have been fully operational by this fall, it claimed.
But the most unbelievable part of this story is that whoever intended to sell the permit was perfectly within the law in doing so.
“There is no obligation to report to us if the shares in a company which has a permit to run a free school are sold,” Anna Sundberg, division head for permit assessment with the Schools Inspectorate, told Svenska Dagbladet. “It’s the company that has the permit to run the school and therefore is the principal legal entity is still the same.”
This loophole and consequent sale attempt has alarmed politicians across the spectrum, and caused Jan Björkland, the Swedish education minister, to launch a parliamentary inquiry into Swedish free schools.
Björkland proposes that eligibility for permits must be decided by the Swedish school inspectorate, rather than “a company broker”, and permits should be tied to schools and to their owners and that a change in ownership would require a new owner to seek a new permit, according to The Local. Such a change would make transactions like the one advertised on Blocket “impossible”, he said.