Meld. St. 6 (2019–2020) Early intervention and inclusive education in kindergartens, schools and out-of-school-hours care

1 More inclusive kindergartens, schools and out-of-school-hours care

1.1 Introduction

All children deserve a good start in life. Children and young people must be able to learn, play, develop and feel a sense of achievement. A safe setting is important. Children who feel secure and happy learn better.

Knowledge gives every child the opportunity to develop their talents in the best possible way and to live independent lives. Knowledge is also key to social progress and the very basis for democracy, value creation and well-being. Good kindergartens and schools that empower all children irrespective of background are vital in creating a society with few inequalities and equal opportunities for all.

A sustainable welfare state requires more people to participate in the labour force and more people to work for longer. The government is therefore investing in education and knowledge for all. Early intervention and inclusive practices are key to ensuring that all children and young people can realise their dreams and ambitions. It is the government’s goal for all children and young people to be given equal opportunities for all-round development and learning, irrespective of background and individual circumstances. We want an education system that allows everyone to feel a sense of achievement and experience the value of knowledge and community.

Kindergartens and schools should light the spark that children and young people need in order to develop and learn, make a good life for themselves and prepare themselves for study and work. The national curriculum sets out five basic skills: reading, writing, numeracy, oral skills and digital skills. The goal is for all pupils to have mastered these basic skills by the time they leave compulsory education. We know that failure to do so has a significant impact on whether or not they complete upper secondary education or training. By 2030 the government wants to see 90 per cent of students enrolling in upper secondary education or training pass and complete.[1] One important step on the way to reaching this goal is for 5,000 more students to complete upper secondary education or training every year up until 2025.

Kindergartens and schools should help children and young people feel secure and happy. Children and young people spend a large part of their childhood and adolescence in kindergarten, school and out-of-school-hours care (SFO). There they will experience ups and downs. They fall and hurt themselves, they quarrel and they struggle. They learn to climb to the top of the tree, they crack the reading code, they achieve and they make friends for life. Kindergartens, schools and out-of-school-hours care (SFO) should create good frameworks for all-round development. Children and pupils should be met with clear expectations and given help to deal with both success and failure. They must have adults around them who provide support and care, whether they need help to find friends, participate in play or learn to read, write and do sums and understand the society we live in. Children and pupils are given the best chance to develop socially and academically if they feel they are a valuable part of society and accepted for who they are. They must feel that they belong and that they, their perspectives and their opinions are needed.

The state has a particular responsibility for protecting Sami children’s well-being as well as their religious, cultural and linguistic rights. The Sami and Norwegian languages have equal status. The Education Act regulates the right to a Sami education. The act confers the right to instruction in Lule Sami, South Sami and North Sami.[2]

Children who need it are entitled to special educational support, irrespective of whether or not they are enrolled in kindergarten. Pupils who do not or cannot benefit sufficiently from mainstream education are entitled to special needs support. Pupils with Sign Language as their first language and pupils who are deemed to require such instruction following an expert assessment are entitled to instruction in and through Sign Language. There are additional rights for children and pupils from national minorities, minority language children and pupils, and children and pupils who require alternative and supplementary communication.

Employees must possess the necessary skills and forge close relationships with the children and pupils if we are to provide an inclusive and good education for all. Working with the local support system, kindergartens and schools must be prepared to deal with the diversity that exists amongst the children and pupils. Local support systems may include the pedagogical psychology service, child health centres and school health services. Kindergartens, schools and the support system should work together to offer services to children and young people with different needs. One common denominator for the key initiatives outlined in this white paper is that they seek to bring the available expertise closer to the children and pupils. To achieve this, the government will be investing in professional development in kindergartens, schools and the pedagogical psychology service and in improving co-operation between kindergartens, schools, out-of-school-hours care and the local support system.

Goals for sustainable development

Education is a priority for the government both domestically and in relation to development policy. Together with all UN member countries, Norway has adopted 17 goals for sustainable development in the period leading up to 2030, and we have drawn up an action plan to eradicate poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change. An inclusive, equitable and good education for all is an important element in this plan.

Early intervention, inclusion and well adapted provision are fundamental principles for the government’s work to improve our education system. In recent years the government has taken major steps to enable kindergartens and schools to offer opportunities for all, cf. e.g. White Paper 19 (2015–2016) Time for Play and Learning – better content in kindergarten and White Paper 21 (2016-2017) Desire to Learn – early intervention and quality in schools:

  • The new Framework Plan for Kindergartens clarifies kindergartens’ obligations, responsibilities and roles as well as the rights of parents.
  • The new core staff ratio for kindergartens sets a minimum requirement of one adult per three children under the age of three and one adult per six children over the age of three.
  • The lowering of the teacher-to-child ratio means there must be at least one pedagogical leader for every seven children under the age of three and at least one pedagogical leader for every fourteen children over the age of three. The children are regarded as being 3 years of age from August onwards in the year of their third birthday.
  • Discount schemes and free core time enable more people to send their children to kindergarten.
  • The regional scheme for professional development in kindergartens and the decentralised scheme for professional development in schools help boost local quality development initiatives.
  • The supervision scheme ensures that municipalities which have seen poor results in key areas of education over time are offered support and guidance.
  • The Research Council of Norway has been tasked with allocating grants for research into the effects of measures for improving quality in kindergartens and schools.
  • Municipalities are now obliged to offer intensive tuition to pupils falling behind in reading, writing or numeracy in Years 1–4.
  • More teaching specialists are helping to create additional career paths in schools and strengthen the professional learning community.
  • The duty of kindergartens and schools to co-operate and the obligation of schools and other municipal services to co-operate are improving coherence between the different services.
  • Primary and lower secondary teacher training programmes are now five-year master’s programmes.
  • Much investment has gone into continuing education for teachers.
  • The statutory pupil-to-teacher ratio stipulates that there must be no more than 15 pupils per teacher in Years 1–4 and no more than 20 pupils per teacher in Years 5–10.

The government takes the view that these and a raft of other ongoing measures will help reinforce the good progress being made in kindergartens and schools. This white paper builds on and reinforces the policies that the government has pursued to date. It also continues to build on the knowledge base cited in the aforementioned white papers. For that reason this white paper primarily cites information from new reports, in particular the reports Inclusive education for children and young people by the expert panel on children and young people with special needs (the Nordahl Report) and NOU 2019: 3 New opportunities – better learning. Gender differences in school performance and educational pathways by the Stoltenberg Commission. When preparing this white paper we assessed the Nordahl Report in its entirety along with some of the proposals contained in the Stoltenberg Commission’s report. Other proposals made by the Stoltenberg Commission will be addressed in other processes. The national evaluation of out-of-school-hours care (SFO) Play, learning and non-pedagogy for all has also provided important input, especially for the section on SFO. The report from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)[3]from the first evaluation of Norway’s overall effort in terms of inclusion has also informed this white paper, see box 1.2.

This white paper is primarily about kindergartens, primary and lower secondary schools and SFO, but many of the measures also apply to upper secondary schools. The support systems working with kindergartens and schools are also addressed in the white paper. Many of the measures described in the paper will also affect adults entitled to education and training. The white paper concerns kindergarten, education and training provision for all children and young people, regardless of background and aptitude for learning.

1.2 Unacceptable disparities in quality

Many kindergartens and schools are inclusive and look after their children and pupils in a good way. Kindergartens and schools have made good progress in many areas in recent years. Yet there are still challenges that must be tackled. Not all children and pupils receive the help they need. Many get help too late and are met with low expectations. This means that many children and pupils are not being heard and understood, and they develop and learn less than they could have done with better adapted provision. This is a serious matter. These children and pupils may not feel safe and happy in kindergarten or school and find that they are not seen as a valuable part of the community.

The Nordahl report describes how too many children and young people with special needs do not receive the help they need and that they are too often taken out of class for individual lessons. Some spend the lessons alone with a teacher, others in smaller groups. The report also highlights how children and pupils with a statement of special needs too often encounter adults without the relevant expertise. The report is clear that the pedagogical psychology service is spending too little time with the children and pupils. The Nordahl panel is proposing wide-reaching changes to the education system to ensure that the expertise is moved closer to the children and pupils.[4]

The Stoltenberg Commission’s report shows that there are marked differences between how girls and boys perform at all levels of the education system. Boys are overrepresented in the statistics on special needs provision, they receive lower average point scores in compulsory education than girls, and more boys than girls fail to complete upper secondary education or training. The commission is proposing measures to improve provision for all, both boys and girls. It believes that measures aimed at all pupils will result in better adapted provision for everyone.[5]

Sami children and pupils with special needs do not have adequate access to learning materials, learning resources and assessment materials in Sami. There is also much to suggest that there are considerable disparities in the support system's (the pedagogical psychology service's) knowledge of Sami language and culture, something which is important in order to give Sami children well adapted and special needs provision.

There are unacceptable quality differences between kindergartens, between schools and between SFO schemes. We have many good kindergartens, but there are also too many kindergartens that do not offer satisfactory provision.[6] Which municipality the pupils live in and which school they go to have an impact on how much they learn at school.[7] There are also significant differences between the different SFO schemes. Some SFO schemes have adopted clear pedagogical plans and schedule good content for the children, while others have focused less on content. Many SFO schemes do not sufficiently adapt their provision for children with special needs.[8]

Too many pupils in compulsory education have low attendance, and for many of them this trend continues when they start upper secondary education or training.[9] Some also develop school refusal. Low attendance can have major consequences for the pupils concerned, and it can make it difficult to complete upper secondary education or training.[10] Although a growing proportion of students complete upper secondary, one in four still fail to complete within five years. There are also significant differences between the different counties.[11] Students and apprentices who complete upper secondary benefit from improved prospects in the labour market later in life.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006 ratified by Norway in 2013. The aim of the convention is to protect the rights of people with disabilities, and it should help ensure inclusion and prevent discrimination.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reviewed Norway’s initial report in Geneva on 25 and 26 March 2019. In its final report the committee highlighted both positive aspects and areas of concern. In terms of education it expressed concern that a large proportion of the special needs provision is delivered by staff without the appropriate training. It also stressed the need to ensure inclusion of a high quality and to improve universal design in school buildings.

By mid-2023 Norway will be reporting on what it has done to follow up on the committee’s report. The status of the measures set out in this white paper and other relevant measures that the government will be implementing in the next few years will be key to this report.

1.3 Early intervention and inclusive practices

In this white paper the government presents concrete measures to improve the education system. The government’s measures will not in themselves be enough to succeed with early intervention and more inclusive practices in kindergartens and schools. The knowledge base used for the white paper shows that practices are not always consistent with the legislation. We are reliant on municipalities and counties working diligently to promote inclusion and early intervention and meeting the requirements stipulated in the legislation. A list has therefore been included at the end of each chapter of this white paper describing what is expected of municipalities, counties and other parties in order to illustrate what the government deems to be particularly important if we are to reach the goal of early intervention and inclusive provision for all. Municipalities and counties are governed by laws and regulations pursuant to Section 2-1 of the Local Government Act. The expectations aimed at municipalities and counties do not in themselves impose any new legal obligations.

Keywords for the white paper are:

  • quality
  • culture
  • knowledge
  • competencies
  • capacity

One overarching goal is to further improve quality in kindergartens and schools so that all children and pupils are able to learn, experience a sense of achievement and develop in an inclusive environment. Better quality mainstream provision could reduce the need for special arrangements for individual children. Improved special needs provision could also ensure that children and young people develop better and learn more. Culture, knowledge, skills and capacity are key factors in improving quality.

Firstly, it is crucial that all kindergartens and schools adopt a culture for inclusion and early intervention. One important prerequisite in this respect is good leadership at all levels within the municipality, counties and private kindergarten and school owners. The government also wants government targets and measures for kindergarten and school development to use inclusion as a fundamental premise.

Secondly, more knowledge is needed about what it takes to change practices and offer good provision to all children and pupils. The legislation grants all children and young people important rights. Numerous reports and government inspections have demonstrated that kindergartens, schools and municipalities do not always fulfil their obligations and have due regard for the children and young people’s rights. The government wishes to strengthen research capacity and enable experiences to be shared more systematically. We have included in this white paper a number of examples of how municipalities are working on early intervention and inclusion. The examples can be used as inspiration for other municipalities, counties and private kindergarten and school owners to develop more inclusive practices.

Thirdly, having the right competencies is vital. Kindergartens, schools and support systems already possess a great deal of expertise, but the disparities across the country are too great. Professional development is needed to ensure better adapted and more inclusive provision for all children regardless of where they live. The government is looking to launch a major, long-term professional development programme for municipalities and counties. The programme is particularly aimed at kindergartens, schools and pedagogical psychology services.

Fourthly, we can increase capacity in the education system by organising the work better and applying the expertise where it will be of greatest use. The government wants to boost co-operation across disciplines and sectors to make the expertise more readily accessible to the children and young people who need it. With a stronger team around the children, pupils and teachers, we can create good comprehensive provision for all children and young people.

1.3.1 What is inclusion?

Inclusion in kindergartens and schools means that all children and pupils should feel that they belong. They should feel safe and discover that they are valuable and that they are able to help shape their own learning. An inclusive environment welcomes all children and pupils.

Sometimes it will be necessary to organise the provision outside the ordinary class to allow every child to learn and develop in the way that is best for them. This means finding flexible solutions to ensure inclusion. It is essential that children and pupils feel they are able to be themselves in an inclusive environment and that they are given the same opportunities as everyone else to develop according to their individual circumstances.

All children and young people are different. They have different backgrounds and different interests, experiences and circumstances, and they develop at different speeds. Some children and young people face challenges which mean that they need additional help and support. Others have particular talents or a high learning potential in one or more subjects. This means that kindergartens and schools must adapt their provision to cater for children and pupils’ individual circumstances.

At a time marked by more rapid change and increasing diversity in society, kindergartens, schools and SFO schemes are the main communal spaces for children and young people. Diversity is an enrichment for kindergartens, schools and SFO schemes. It allows children to develop tolerance and respect for our differences and to learn about other languages and cultures. Inclusion in kindergartens and schools helps protect diversity and strengthen democracy.

Some children and pupils are currently catered for in special classes or special schools. Many of those who receive such provision experience greater social affinity with the other children and pupils in these settings than in mainstream provision. Yet it is a goal for all children and pupils to enjoy well adapted provision and inclusion in mainstream education.

Obligations relating to inclusive education

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that a child’s education should help develop the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) stipulates that everyone is entitled to an education without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity.

Unesco’s Salamanca Statement of 1994 (Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education) stresses how education systems should take into account the wide diversity of the children’s characteristics, individual circumstances and needs. The statement also stipulates that the education should be provided in inclusive schools irrespective of the pupils’ physical, intellectual, emotional and linguistic background and regardless of their social, cultural and ethnic background.

On account of the special rights extended to indigenous peoples, Norway has a particular responsibility for safeguarding the interests of Sami children and Sami parents, cf. Article 108 of the Norwegian Constitution, Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ILO Convention no. 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples in independent countries.

1.3.2 What is early intervention?

Early intervention means good pedagogical provision from early childhood, that kindergartens and schools work to prevent problems, and that steps are taken promptly when a problem is identified. Steps could include accommodating the child within the mainstream provision and/or take particular measures.

The basis for development and learning is laid in the children’s early years. If the children develop good foundations at this stage, they increase the likelihood of good development later. The provision given to the children in kindergarten and primary school lays the basis for how they succeed in education and work later in life. It is therefore important that all children have access to well adapted provision early on.

When new needs arise over the course of their schooling the children and pupils must swiftly be given help and specially adapted provision to prevent any problems from building up. This is important in order for each child to feel they are a valuable part of society and be given opportunities to develop and learn. It is also of value to society that everyone receives the help they need at an early stage so that everybody who is capable of it can develop into active citizens who participate in work and contribute to value creation in the country.

The Country Policy Review and Analysis (CPRA) project

In 2016 Norway took part in the Country Policy Review and Analysis (CPRA) project run by the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. The project is a survey looking at how much emphasis different countries place on preventive and early intervention rather than mitigating measures, amongst other things. In practice this impacts inclusion in that mitigation poses a greater risk of segregation than do preventive measures and early intervention. As far as Norway is concerned the big picture is that prevention and early intervention dominate education policy. However, Norway also relies on certain mitigating actions such as special units in local schools and special schools for pupils with particularly complex needs.

At a national level this project and similar surveys can inform the discussion around whether our priorities and policy guidelines are in line with the goal of inclusive education and how this is dealt with in practice by municipalities and counties.

1.3.3 Prerequisites for early intervention and inclusive practices

A widely accepted estimate is that between 15 and 25 per cent of children and young people are in need of specially adapted provision at any one time. Some need adapted provision for a short period, others need it permanently or over a longer period of time. This means that adapted provision is not an exception but quite commonplace. Inclusive practices require staff, children, pupils and parents[12] in kindergartens, schools and SFO schemes to accept the fundamental principle that all children and young people – with all their differences – belong in the group. Buildings and outdoor spaces which have been physically designed to accommodate everyone are another prerequisite for inclusion.

Inclusion requires kindergartens, schools and SFO schemes to put in place flexible solutions and allocate sufficient resources to tailor the provision to suit everyone. The children and pupils should benefit from comprehensive provision whereby the special needs measures are closely tied in with the mainstream provision.

Listening to the children and consulting them is key to succeeding with adapted provision. Children and pupils may feel more secure and motivated if they are able to have a say in their own learning and lives and feel that they are being seen and understood. This provides a good starting point for development and learning. A good dialogue with the parents is also crucial. It is usually they who know their children best. Together with their children, parents can provide the kindergarten or school with important information about how their children are doing and what they need.

Children’s right to participation

Children’s right to be heard in matters that concern them is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in Article 30 of the Norwegian Constitution:

Children have the right to respect for their human dignity. They have the right to be heard in questions that concern them, and due weight shall be attached to their views in accordance with their age and development.

For actions and decisions that affect children, the best interests of the child shall be a fundamental consideration.

Children are entitled to have their personal integrity protected. The authorities of the state shall create conditions that facilitate the child's development, including ensuring that the child is provided with the necessary economic, social and health security, preferably within their own family.

Children’s right to participate is also incorporated into the objects clauses of the Kindergarten Act and Education Act.

For all children and pupils to benefit from good provision, it is important that the provision is knowledge-based and delivered by competent professionals. Highly skilled employees must work closely with the children and pupils so that they can quickly identify their needs and adapt the provision in a good way. It is important that those who work closely with the children have knowledge of how diversity can be used as a resource and of how they can support, strengthen and follow up on children and young people according to their individual circumstances. Teacher training and continuing education programmes must contain what the teachers need in terms of fundamental knowledge. Kindergartens and schools also need access to specialists with different skill sets who can work with the teachers to form a team around the children and pupils. Kindergartens, schools and the local support system must co-operate so that the children and pupils can benefit from comprehensive provision and swift access to the relevant expertise. A national support system is required in certain areas. Statped –  the national agency for special needs education – is tasked with providing expert knowledge in small, specialised fields or highly complex cases to help municipalities and counties adapt their provision for children and pupils with long-term and/or extensive needs.

Technological advances give kindergartens and schools an opportunity to tailor their provision. Digital tools can be of great help to many children and young people with visual impairments, hearing impairments or reading, writing or numeracy difficulties. Digital tools can help give children and pupils adapted provision in a mainstream setting. Kindergarten and school owners must ensure that their kindergartens and schools have up-to-date skills to allow them to use digital tools effectively, and municipalities and counties are responsible for ensuring that the local support systems have the expertise needed to assist in this process. Central government must provide guidance and additional support.

The aim of giving all children and young people inclusive kindergarten and school provision that makes them thrive, develop, feel a sense of achievement and learn requires an effort from both central and local government as well as each kindergarten and school. Internationally it is often pointed out that all administrative levels in the system must be held accountable for realising inclusion in practice. The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education has created a tool for the various levels to use in this process, cf. box 2.2. in chapter 2.

Central government must ensure that there is a good knowledge base, relevant study programmes and professional development schemes, good guidance and support, appropriate legislation and other structural measures, amongst other things. Municipalities and municipal and private kindergarten and school owners must take overall responsibility for conducting systematic quality development in all kindergartens, schools and SFO schemes. Kindergartens, schools and SFO schemes must adopt the principle of inclusion when planning and delivering pedagogical content. Teachers should not stand alone in this process. Leaders at all levels must help to create good professional communities. Teachers must be enabled to evaluate their own practices and share and discuss each other’s practices. Leaders must give their employees support and guidance, act when staff need professional development, enable multiple professions to work together, and ensure that the resources are wisely spent.

1.4 Summary

The next chapters of this white paper address in more detail existing challenges for kindergartens, schools, SFO schemes, support systems and government initiatives. Here follows a brief summary of the different chapters.

Chapter 2 Early intervention and quality at every stage of the educational trajectory

The government is of the view that the single most important thing we can do to promote and strengthen inclusive practices in kindergartens and schools is to improve the quality of ordinary mainstream provision. The government is clear that it is the pupils’ efforts, engagement and talent that should determine how well they do at school, not their gender, where they live, their parents’ education or income or which country their parents were born in. In recent years the government has therefore taken robust measures to enhance quality in kindergartens and schools, and many things are moving in the right direction.

Yet the provision the children or pupils receive still depends on which kindergarten or school they are enrolled in. The government expects kindergartens, schools, municipalities and counties to make a determined effort to ensure early intervention to allow all children and pupils to engage and develop, feel a sense of achievement and learn according to their individual circumstances. Children should experience a smooth transition from kindergarten to school and SFO and good transitions later in their schooling.

The government’s measures:

  • enshrine in law that kindergartens must take preventive steps in relation to the psychosocial kindergarten environment and introduce a statutory duty for kindergarten staff to act on instances of bullying in order to ensure that all children feel safe and well
  • explore possible avenues to improving information sharing between educational levels and services in order to given children and pupils the best possible transitions
  • impose a statutory duty for municipalities to assess all children’s Norwegian language skills before they start school in order to identify children who may need to have their language skills investigated further
  • task the Directorate for Education and Training with developing a free, quality-assured tool for language assessment with associated guidance materials
  • appoint an expert panel which, based on the school contribution indicators, should make recommendations on how schools that contribute less to the pupils’ learning than we should expect can improve
  • seek to prepare and conduct an annual survey on well-being and the learning environment for Years 1–4
  • allow municipalities to trial new models for flexible school starting age
  • make it mandatory for schools to follow up on pupils with low attendance in primary and lower secondary education
  • draw up online guidance materials to disseminate knowledge of how best to set homework
  • change the rules on homework help to give municipalities more flexibility
  • take steps to improve co-operation between lower and upper secondary schools
  • present a white paper to the Storting on upper secondary education and training in spring 2021

Chapter 3 More inclusive practices

The fact that not all children and young people receive the help they need, early enough or not at all is a major problem. This suggests that the systems designed to ensure they do are not working sufficiently well everywhere.

The government wants to obtain more knowledge about how provision for children and young people in kindergartens and schools can be better adapted and inclusive for everyone. We will create a centre for research into special needs education and inclusive practices to increase research capacity in the field in the long term. We will also launch pilots and commission research to gain experience and knowledge of how kindergartens, schools and municipalities can work to prevent problems from building up and how special needs expertise can be applied to better benefit the children. The outcome of the pilots and research can provide a starting point for further policy design.

The government’s measures:

  • consider extending the regulation on intensive tuition in reading, writing and numeracy for Years 1–4 to also include other year groups
  • assess how government inspections and guidance can be improved to give children and pupils good, adapted and inclusive provision
  • consider proposing changes to the Education Act for pupils with significant learning potential in response to the recommendations by the Education Act Commission and the Lied Commission
  • improve guidance on universal design in kindergarten and school buildings
  • obtain more knowledge through pilots and strengthen research capacity in order to develop more inclusive practices
  • establish a centre for research into special needs education and inclusion
  • explore potential solutions for improving statistics and data on kindergartens and schools with due regard for privacy

Chapter 4 The pedagogical psychology service

The pedagogical psychology service is both a specialist agency and a partner to kindergartens and schools in preventing problems and in identifying and supporting children and pupils with special needs. These tasks make up a comprehensive mandate for the service and must be seen in context. The government wants to enable the pedagogical psychology service to improve the quality of its expert assessments. The government also wishes to improve the service’s ability to take preventive action and help kindergartens and schools support children and pupils with special needs in the best possible way. We will invest in professional development at municipalities and counties with particular emphasis on the pedagogical psychology service, cf. Chapter 5.

The government’s measures:

  • consider changing the criteria for expert assessments by the pedagogical psychology service in some matters to allow the kindergarten or school to make a decision in consultation with the parents, provided the case has been sufficiently investigated to be able to make a sound decision
  • clarify in the Kindergarten Act and Education Act that the pedagogical psychology service should take a preventive approach and make early interventions
  • clarify in the acts which quality criteria apply to the services provided by the pedagogical psychology service
  • consider whether the pedagogical psychology service should be able to refer cases directly to child and adolescent psychiatry outpatients departments and habilitation centres for children and adolescents and whether such referrals would have consequences for the rules on healthcare funding

Chapter 5 Expertise in kindergartens, schools and support systems

The most important work on creating good, inclusive environments for children and young people is being done by teachers and other staff in kindergartens and schools. Teachers and others working closely with the children and pupils must have the requisite skills to be able to support everyone in the best possible way. The government will continue and strengthen professional development initiatives for teachers and other kindergarten and school staff. The government will also launch an extensive and long-term professional development programme in the area of special needs education and inclusion aimed at kindergartens, schools and local support systems with particular emphasis on the pedagogical psychology service.

The government’s measures:

  • reduce over time the teacher-to-child-ratio to at least one pedagogical leader for every six children under the age of three and one pedagogical leader for every 12 children over the age of three (50 per cent kindergarten teachers)
  • propose a clarification to the Kindergarten Act to the effect that staff providing special educational support should as a general rule hold formal pedagogical or special needs qualifications
  • clarify and tighten the legislation on the use of assistants to provide special educational support in kindergartens and special needs support in schools
  • propose a clarification to the Education Act to the effect that expert assessments should determine which qualifications special needs staff should hold
  • assess how all kindergartens and schools can gain sufficient access to special needs resources
  • assess how all kindergartens and schools can gain sufficient access to resources on Norwegian as a second language
  • appoint an external panel to propose concrete changes to the Framework Plan for Kindergarten Teacher Education
  • monitor the voluntary network of higher education institutions offering special needs teacher training programmes in order to promote co-operation on creating joint guidelines and developing the training programmes
  • consider whether a master’s degree in special needs education with integrated teaching subjects could lead to a teaching qualification for employment in schools
  • work with the parties to assess whether to create positions in kindergartens and schools for special needs educators without teaching qualifications
  • consult with the sector to assess the need for a joint special needs teacher training programme at master’s level for kindergarten, primary and lower secondary teachers
  • develop continuing education programmes for special needs education, motor development and physical activity for kindergarten teachers
  • consider imposing a statutory duty on school owners to offer training in pedagogical leadership for newly appointed head teachers
  • co-ordinate the decentralised schemes for professional development for kindergartens and schools to ensure more consistency and better cohesion
  • consider whether the professional development initiatives for special needs education, including the pedagogical psychology service, can become part of or be seen in the context of the decentralised schemes for professional development
  • launch a long-term professional development programme within special needs education in partnership with the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities for municipalities and counties
  • impose a statutory duty on municipalities to ensure that all schools have access to a teaching specialist in early learning in Years 1–4 by 2025

Chapter 6 The team around the children and pupils

Kindergartens and schools are important arenas for preventing, identifying and following up on various challenges the children and pupils encounter in their day-to-day lives. A good local support structure around the children and teachers is important in order to ensure inclusive and adapted pedagogical provision. Various forms of specialist expertise are often needed to ensure good and comprehensive provision. The government is keen to strengthen multidisciplinary co-operation in and around kindergartens and schools.

The government’s measures:

  • explore the possibility of a new support service to look at how the pedagogical psychology, health visiting and school health services can be better co-ordinated or alternatively consolidate
  • propose to harmonise and strengthen the regulations on co-operation for children and young people in the sector legislation, including rule changes to ensure comprehensive and co-ordinated services for children and young people
  • look at how the pedagogical approaches at the directorates can be better co-ordinated through the project Better cross-sector co-operation
  • investigate the circumstances of other professions working in kindergartens, schools and SFO schemes, consider which responsibilities and which duties the different professions should assume, and put forward proposals for improving the circumstances for the different professions in kindergartens, schools and SFO schemes

Chapter 7 Government support systems

The expertise possessed by Statped – the national agency for special needs education – must be utilised even better across the education system. The government wants to delimit Statped’s mandate and make its services more accessible to children and pupils with complex challenges and/or long-term and extensive special needs. This will have consequences for the way in which Statped is organised. Children and pupils with special needs must be identified early and given help when they need it. The expertise therefore needs to be where the children and pupils are, locally in kindergartens and schools and in the local support system. The government therefore wants to reallocate resources from Statped to professional development programmes in the municipalities.

The Directorate for Education and Training will bolster its work on inclusion in kindergartens and schools and help generate more knowledge and expertise in relation to special needs. The county governors will also play an important role in terms of early intervention and better inclusion, especially when further developing professional development programmes for municipalities and counties.

The government’s measures:

  • retain Statped as a government agency answering directly to the Ministry of Education and Research
  • develop Statped into a nationwide provider of multidisciplinary services with regional offices
  • delimit Statped’s mandate to cover services and skills transfer in niche and particularly specialised areas of expertise and in highly complex cases
  • transfer resources from Statped to skills development schemes aimed at municipalities and counties with particular emphasis on the pedagogical psychology service
  • commission a real-time evaluation of the process of reorganising Statped and of skills development at municipalities and counties
  • explore how to organise the production of teaching aids and learning resources
  • retain the Sami special needs support unit (SEAD) as part of Statped and give it a separate mandate to be prepared during the transition period at Statped

Chapter 8 Out-of-school-hours-care for everyone

Good out-of-school-hours-care (SFO) can aid inclusion and even out social differences. SFO is an important social arena where children can forge friendships, play and try out different activities. The government wants to ensure more equitable SFO provision across the country and will produce a national framework plan for SFO with room for local variations. We want as many children as possible to attend SFO, irrespective of background. We will therefore be offering discount schemes.

The government’s measures:

  • amend the provisions on SFO in the Education Act, including a clarification of the objectives and core values of the SFO scheme
  • produce a national framework plan for SFO based on prevailing legislation which accommodates local variations
  • draw up support and guidance materials for quality development in SFO, to include guidance on formative activities through play, support municipalities that wish to use SFO as a tool for better integration, and promote healthy eating
  • encourage more physical activity in SFO through the SFO framework plan and in the form of support and guidance materials
  • introduce a nationwide scheme for SFO with reduced parent payments for low-income families
  • introduce a nationwide scheme for free SFO for children with special needs in Years 5–7
  • amend the provisions in the Education Act on co-operation with other services to clarify that they extend to SFO
  • draw up guidance materials for municipalities on the scope for providing services under the Health and Care Services Act within the SFO framework
  • update the Directorate of Health’s guidance to also cover SFO where relevant, such as its guidance on children and young people in need of habilitation

[1]Figures from Statistics Norway in 2019 show that 75.3 per cent of those who enrolled in upper secondary education or training in 2013 completed within five years.

[2]Cf. Section 6-2 first paragraph of the Education Act.

[3]UN 2019.

[4]Nordahl et al. 2018.

[5]NOU 2019: 3.

[6]Bjørnestad and Os 2018, Bjørnestad et al. 2019, Bjørnestad 2019, Rege et al. 2018.

[7]Directorate for Education and Training 2019c, Directorate for Education and Training 2018b.

[8]Wendelborg et al. 2018.

[9]Directorate for Education and Training 2019f.

[10]Bratholmen 2018.

[11]Skoleporten.udir.no.

[12]In this white paper the word parents is used to describe both parents and other carers.