Out-of-school centres play an important role for children's development and security, and the activities constitute an important complement to the school system.
Out-of-school centres are intended for children from the age of six years up to and including the spring term the year the pupil turns 13. Enrolment in out-of-school centres is to be offered as necessary, considering parents' employment or studies, or if the child has personal needs due to the family's situation in general. In all, some 397 000 children are enrolled at out-of-school centres. It is mainly children aged six to nine who attend these activities. This age group represents 83 per cent of those enrolled. The majority attend out-of-school centres which are generally integrated into, and have the same management, as schools.
The task of out-of-school centres is to supplement the school system and stimulate pupils' development and learning, as well as offer meaningful leisure time and recreation. Through their experience of explorative, hands-on and practical methods, out-of-school centres can help in achieving the more academic-oriented goals of schools. One prerequisite for pupils to perceive their time at out-of-school centres as meaningful is that activities are designed based on their needs, interests and experience. Great emphasis is given to encouraging pupils to develop their social skills through interaction with friends and adults. It is possible to integrate out-of-school educational activities with scheduled teaching within the framework of compulsory school. This means that the municipality may organise work so that out-of-school centre staff also work in compulsory school.
Municipalities are obliged to offer enrolment in out-of-school centres during the part of the day children are not in preschool or school, as well as during holidays. Beginning the autumn term a pupil turns 10, open out-of-school services may be offered instead of out-of-school centres.
Out-of-school centres are regulated by the Education Act, which is approved by the Riksdag. Out-of-school centres, compulsory school and the preschool class have a joint curriculum, which is approved by the Government. The curriculum stipulates that the preschool class, school and out-of-school centres must develop means of working together so as to enrich the all-round development and learning of each child.
The Education Act contains quality requirements describing the preconditions necessary to meet children's needs for care and good educational activities. These requirements deal with the composition and size of children's groups, premises, staff and that also in other respects children are offered a good environment.
Within the framework of laws, ordinances and curricula established by the Riksdag and the Government, the out-of-school centre's principal organiser - public or private - is free to decide how the organisation is to be run. To assist in this regard, the National Agency for Education has prepared general advice for out-of-school centres. The National Agency for Education's general advice contains recommendations as to how laws and regulations may be applied.