Helena is a school inspector

I work at SSI's office in Lund, so I'm usually in schools located in Skåne, Halland, Blekinge, and Småland. SSI has offices throughout Sweden.

What do we check at the school?

I'll have already looked at the students' grades and the school's national exam results before I arrive at a school. In addition we'll have already conducted surveys among students, parents, and teachers to find out what they think about the school. I'll have also spoken to the school principal.

How a visit works

Let's imagine that I'm visiting Big School in the municipality of Littletown. Before I visit, I can see that only half the students in ninth grade are passing music, while almost all are passing the other subjects. We're interested in why students at Big School are struggling to pass in music. To find out, we sit in on the music lessons and interview students and teachers. It turns out that the school has no music teacher and that other teachers are covering lessons here and there. There are no instruments, the guitars are broken, and there's no equipment for recording or arranging music. The students tell us that they find the lessons boring, and that they mostly just practise singing. The teachers tell us that they're unable to give better music lessons because they're concentrating on their regular lessons.

We check whether the school is violating any legislation

After our visit, we check whether the school is violating any legislation. If we find that this is the case, we write this in our decision. The decision states what the school is doing wrong and what we think the school principal and the school should do to remedy this. In the case of Big School, we require that the school must have a teacher of music. The classrooms must also be better equipped. We then give the school a certain amount of time to correct the problem. The school must then submit a report of what they have done. We may then make another visit and speak with the students once more. This is to be really sure that the students are now happy with their music lessons.

We do not review school food

We don't always investigate the issues that students feel are most important. Many students want us to investigate school food, for instance. We look at the most important things for ensuring that students get the most out of their education. Research indicates that this includes a quiet work environment and the teacher's effectiveness in the classroom. School food is important, but not the most important.

Most things work well in Swedish schools

Most things are fine at the schools we visit, although we do find some things that aren't as good. The hardest part of my job is visiting schools where students are really having a bad time of it. This is when I feel sad when I get home.

Sometimes our decisions are difficult to make

It can take a long time to write our report if we identify problems at a school. Sometimes both students and teachers are unhappy about what we write in our report. Most students like their school, even if it's underperforming. Students can also become concerned about what's written in newspapers about their school. But what comforts me are the many times I've been part of turning a difficult situation into a much better experience for the students. This happens when those responsible acknowledge that something needs to be done to address something that isn't working.