Alumnus of the year 2021 Mattias Henriksson

Alumnus of the Year 2021 – Mattias Henriksson

Mattias Henriksson entered the profession after some detours over ten years ago and completed his education as a school leisure-time centre teacher at the University of Borås in 2015. Since then, he has made a clear impression both locally and nationally for his work in promoting school leisure-time centres. After graduating and until 2017, he worked as a coordinator at the centre at Sandaredskolan in Borås and was a school leisure-time centre Project Leader and travelled to trade fairs and gave lectures. In 2019, he was named "Teacher of the Year in School Leisure-Time Centres" by the Swedish Teachers' Association, when he was working at Hillerstorpsskolan.

“I usually say that these centres are my biggest family, said Mattias Henriksson from a hotel room in Stockholm, when we contacted him. He had been invited to the Swedish Teachers' Association to talk about how it is possible to maintain engagement in school leisure-time centres together with other "teachers of the year."

Decided to work at the school leisure-time centre after a cleaning day with unruly kids

He himself never went to such a centre as a child. After high school, he studied hotel and restaurant management. But he did not pursue a career in that industry and the dream of becoming a professional footballer faded. Instead, he worked in industry for a few years, but then the recession came and Mattias applied to his former school. He first worked as a substitute in various roles and one day he ended up in the leisure-time centre.  There, he discovered that it was fascinating to work with younger children and he took a continued temporary position as a leisure-time centre leader at his old school.

“My first day, I was given the task of managing a cleaning group with some unruly kids at the centre. They were not at all keen on cleaning, but I managed to make them think it was fun. I continued to work as a general resource at the school and in the centre.  At that time, you received a six-month or at best a one-year contract, if you were lucky, and you were not allowed to participate in continuing education opportunities. Today, the municipalities see it in a different way; everyone should be involved and they see the importance of employees’ receiving continuing education.”

Want to show kids the world

He has been noted for his strong engagement, but he sees it only as part of something deeper. During his time at the school in Hillerstorp, he and his colleagues initiated the project "Guests at reality" and inspired other colleagues to implement a simple way of working where representatives of various professions and organisations were invited to meet the children. Among other things, the children were allowed to write letters to hockey clubs. They received answers and thus got to experience that the world is bigger than school and the leisure-time centre, while those with whom the children came in contact got an insight into what the centre was like. The goal is for these encounters to take place physically, when possible.

“This gives both the children and the invited participants faith in the future. They were optimistic, but we never lost sight of the purpose of the leisure-time centre’s pedagogy,” he explained.

“All the centre teachers do a good job. I want people to feel a connection to the centre. From my very first day, I felt that I want to make it visible, I want to bring in other actors from outside so that they can see how good these centres can be, guardians as well as politicians and people from different professions and other activities. I want them to see how beautiful it is, how fun it can be,” he said passionately.

An activity that needs to be highlighted

He talks about the love for the profession and what support and efforts it entails, and that children are never a problem, but also about how the view of the profession in leisure-time centres is often perceived from the outside.

“Leisure-time centres haven’t been thought much of.  What I want to show is how wonderful it is, I want to influence municipal and financial efforts and make visible those who work in these centres. Sick leave rates are high. It is a kind of work that really needs a hug,” he said.

The best thing about the profession, apart from the children, he explained, is that it is so variable. He sees school as a static activity in comparison.

“As a teacher in leisure-time centre, you go to work and spent time with the children, without having to assess them. Of course we make observations, but we see them outside matrices and templates. I enjoy the optimistic bond with guardians, children, and educators.”

What is the most important thing about the profession?

That it exists at all. In many countries, there are no such centres; the children there have very long school days, many hours of homework, and they are not seen for who they are. Our leisure-time centres are a great complement. There are around 4,500 such centres in Sweden so it’s quite significant.

You work in a profession where only 25 per cent are men; what’s your view of this?

I feel comfortable. It is homogeneous with a female majority, but it is also a more embracing environment. But diversity is enriching. When I worked at the school in Hillerstorp, we were, for a period, four men and one woman in the centre, and the pedagogy had a different dynamic. That was interesting.

What does a good school leisure-time centre look like?

It is fundamental that there are good premises and to have a centre that is alive and that can involve all the children. It is important to have competent staff and that the children feel love and continuity. It is also important to get the guardians closer to the centre, to draw them into it and that the children and staff can show pride in it. It is easier to show understanding when they know how the centre works.

How do you see the future of the profession?

I look positively to the future. A lot has happened in the profession. It is important to strengthen the profession and make those who work in these centres understand that they have the best profession in the world and that it is important to get an education in it. I made that mistake myself, saying that I did not need to have an education to work in a centre. The education I received in Borås was fantastic.

How does it feel to be named Alumnus of the Year at the University of Borås?

It's very cool, actually bigger than being named teacher of the year. It is an honour to be able to return to the university as Alumnus of the Year.


Mattias Henriksson

Currently: Alumnus of the Year 2021 at the University of Borås
Works as: Teacher in a school leisure-time centre in Halmstad. Previously worked at schools in Borås, Hillerstorp, and Laholm. Supervises students from the teacher education programme in their student placements. Lecturer.
In his spare time: Enjoys life, is interested in football, spends time with family


Motivation of the jury

Mattias Henriksson - teacher in a school leisure-time centre, Glänningeskolan in Laholm

“With a progressive and innovative view of school leisure-time centres, and with the children and colleagues' well-being in focus, Mattias Henriksson makes an impression. During his time as a teacher in a school leisure-time centre, he has successfully developed the activities of which he has been a part, while at the same time inspiring his colleagues and fostering a thriving workplace.

Among other things, Mattias has run the project "Guests at reality" at Hillerstorp's centre here the children's curiosity and desire for adventure are in focus. The collaboration project is based on the children getting to meet and establish contact with both associations and the local community. For some time now, he has been working at Glänningeskolan in Laholm Municipality, where he, together with his colleagues, has developed outdoor activities into a joy-filled and forward-looking workplace. At the beginning of 2022, he will continue his mission for school leisure-time centres when he will work at Söndrumsskolan in Halmstad. ”


Read also the interview with Anna Borgström – Alumnus of the Year

Text: Solveig Klug
Photo: Portrait Anders Andersson