Skip to content

Free Schools: Flavour of the Month.


Free schools appear to be the educational flavour of the month – much to the anger of the left and the bemusement of everyone else.

But, Education Minister Michael Gove is mistaken – free schools are a Danish invention. Look east, young man! The swedes and the americans may be running some along similar lines, but free schools (de frie skoler) have been knocking around for over a century across the North Sea.

Today’s news items about Swedish free schools not producing the goods educationally is neither here nor there. In Denmark, they have been providing a solid alternative to mainstream schooling for over a hundred years. Similar options exist, I believe, in Holland, as well.

The key factors in success, for free schools as much as any other, are leadership, funding and social context.

My research, in the 1990s, showed that the differences between types of school structure (comprehensive, grammar, free) were less important than the other factors in determining outcomes.

Predominant among these is the input element: if you take in illiterate disadvantaged children, you will struggle to compete against schools with privileged motivated students. Sad, but still true!

There are several studies of Danish Free Schools that would repay the government’s attention. They explore the many reasons why such schools succeed… and why they might fail here. One is that Denmark has, for many years been a much more liberal and educated country…

  1. This is really great help to those who needs to go continue their education. I hope it’s easy to acquire those requirements.

  2. Likewise, thanks a lot Neil. Honestly speaking, I like to read also the content of your post regarding the education issue in Denmark.

    By the way how have you been in the country before? Do you intend to leave Denmark?

  3. I was in Denmark for a while in the early 80s. My brother still lives in Jylland and I still have a number of friends there. In the past, I have done research projects with and for colleagues in Aarhus and Kbh. (Let me know if there are any opportunities for collaboration on similar and I would be over again!)
    I think of DK as my second home!!
    Are you native dansker or ‘A Dane by Choice’ like I was for a while?

  4. Not really Neil. I am just connected to my friend’s site and I find a pleasure to learn more insights about Denmark. I’m eager to find a chance to visit the country one of this days.

    You may already know that the country is very particular on Education and Health Welfare system. So from time to time there should be frequent proposals or development regarding to that matter. And since you have been there with that purpose, I am sure it’s easy for you for another round.

    By the way, you can even direct your inquiries to the producer of the site. He will be very glad to give you more insights.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: