The early school years are of great importance for children’s development. It is therefore critical that the education they receive during that time is high in quality and meaningful, and that it provides children with the optimal conditions for development. What these conditions are and how they can be achieved are constant questions for discussion by those working within education.

How were the early school years organised and what support was provided to children with special educational needs?

Most of the children, those both with and without special educational needs, moved from preschool to preschool-class, leisure-time centre and first grade. Some children with special educational needs spent an extended time in preschool and thereafter started first grade and attended a leisure-time centre.

About half of the children required support provisions, transient or long-term, during their early school years. They had some needs of support provisions, a high need of support provisions or a very high need of support provisions, and were given integrated support, one-on-one training (e.g., one adult educate one child), speech therapy, one-on-one conversation and after-school training, and were also able to remain at preschool for an extended time.

The preschools, preschool-classes, leisure-time centres and first grade classes had either a specialised or a comprehensive typology. The specialised settings enrolled children with the same disability diagnosis, and the comprehensive settings enrolled children with different difficulties and diagnoses. The resources were more generous in the specialised settings, whereas the application of inclusive education was more common in the comprehensive settings.

In her thesis, Johanna Lundqvist reports that the application of inclusive education decreased over time. The children in the study were educated and cared for in more or less inclusive preschools; however after preschool, those children with low abilities, intellectual disabilities and a very high need of support provisions started compulsory schools for pupils with intellectual disabilities with a training school orientation that did not offer inclusive education. The one-on-one trainings also increased over time.

She also reports that the quality of preschool units varied and that some children were educated and cared for in preschools that were of low quality. Structured observation rating scales (e.g. ECERS-R and ICP) were adopted.

What are the children’s views on and experiences of their early school years?

The thesis shows that the children’s views on their early school years were more positive than negative. The children liked, for example, to play with their peers during recess, to climb trees, to do artwork at their leisure-time centre, and to learn to read, write and count in school. They also talked about homesickness and threats and fights in their early school years, as well as about unstimulating circle-times. The children pinpoint the importance of having a sense of belonging among peers; opportunities for creative play and thinking; experiences of speed, excitement and physical challenges; elements of cosiness, withdrawals and comfort for recreation; experiences of growth in knowledge and understanding of the world; feeling safe; feeling free and autonomous; and preventing homesickness so they can thrive.

How can a researcher collect children’s views on their early school years?  

In order to collect and gain an understanding of children’s views on and experiences of their early school years, Johanna Lundqvist used drawings and visualised semi-structured interviews. She underlines the importance of adapting data-collection methods to the capabilities of children and of providing support so that all children, including those children with special educational needs, have opportunities to participate and share their views.

Johanna Lundqvist hopes that through her descriptions and analyses, it will contribute to an increased knowledge and understanding of such matters as the early school years, transitions, special educational needs, support provisions and inclusive education in the context of Sweden.  


Date for dissertation: March 11, 2016, 13:00 in David Magnussonsalen, Frescati Hagväg 8.

Title of doctoral thesis: “Educational pathways and transitions in the early school years: Special educational needs, support provisions and inclusive education”

Abstract/full text can be retrieved from DIVA

Further information
Johanna Lundqvist,