During half term Mrs MacLauchlan has been to Finland and Sweden to visit nurseries, pre-schools and schools. She has been finding out about how the education system works in these two countries.
It was very cold but apparently much warmer than it normally is at this time of year! In both countries everyone was very friendly and welcoming.
Here is some information from the trip:
There are a lot of differences in the way of life in Finland and Sweden compared to this country and this is reflected in the education system.
Formal school does not start until the year in which a child is 7. However from the age of 1 all children are guaranteed a pre-school place and child care is integrated within the pre-schools. One of the pre-schools opened at 6.00 a.m. and was open until 10.00 p.m. to help parents/carers who work shifts. At the pre-schools teaching staff work alongside what are known as Child Minders (staff who support the teachers) and the ratio of adults to children is high as the groups are often mixed with 1 - 6 year olds.
Lessons include ice skating, skiing and sledging. In some schools the children are outside for most of the day and unless it is VERY cold they have a sleep outside. Every school had a time during the day when the children have a sleep and this is for all the 1 - 5 year olds. The 6 year olds can read quietly or go outside as they need to prepare for school when they cannot sleep during the day.
Some of the pre-schools are very large with over 100 children attending and some are purpose built. However some pre-schools are in houses or apartments. All the settings provide a very informal child care facility and none of the children wear a school uniform.
After a busy few days in Helsinki and surrounding areas it was time to move on and we boarded an overnight ferry for Stockholm, Sweden.
The next morning we arrived in Stockholm and it was bright and sunny but cold on the top deck. However the views worth feeling a bit chilly for!
Our first visit was to the office of Sweducare where we had a presentation on the 'playing learning preschool' method. We found out how important the Early Childcare Education Centres have become to the Swedish society. As in Finland most parents go back to work in Sweden when a child is 1 year old but the pre-schools provide both education and childcare under one roof and again is open for long hours.
Whilst in Sweden we visited a variety of pre-schools all offering a slightly different approach but all based on learning through play and with a big emphasis on being outside as much as possible.
Again everyone made us very welcome and we all appreciated the disruption a large number of visitors can create but everyone seemed very relaxed about us being there and joining in.
The range of pre-school provision gives parents/carers a real choice from an English speaking provision, to an Outdoor Learning provision and we also visited a gender free pre-school. Parents/Carers have real choice because whichever pre-school they choose the Government will heavily subsidise the cost as in Finland.
All the children attending pre-schools in both Finland and Sweden get a hot meal at lunchtime, snacks and fruit throughout the day.