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Learning environments and bullying

All children and pupils have the right to a good and safe learning environment that promotes health, well-being and learning.

“Learning environment” refers to the cultural, relational and physical conditions in schools and kindergartens which are important for the learning, health and well-being of children and pupils.

Measures to promote a good, safe kindergarten and school environment

There are a number of measures to promote a good, safe kindergarten and school environment, and to detect and stop bullying. The most important measures are connected to five main areas:

  1. Increased expertise for kindergartens, schools, authorities and owners who need and want support to become better at building good and safe kindergarten and school environments and to prevent, detect and deal with bullying.
  2. The regulations on pupils’ school environment (Chapter 9A of the Education Act) were amended and came into force on 1st August 2017.
  3. From 1st January 2021, new rules on a good and safe psychosocial kindergarten environment in Chapter 8 of the Kindergarten Act apply.
  4. Ombudspersons for bullying in all counties. Among other things, the ombudsperson must support and guide children, pupils and parents regarding the psychosocial environment in kindergartens and schools. They must work preventively and interdisciplinary, provide information and training and contribute to finding good and lasting solutions that ensure a good, safe kindergarten and school environment. 
  5. Help and support for children and young people who experience bullying, and for their families. The Ombudsperson for Children, websites and different organisations receive financial support to work to prevent bullying and contribute to good learning environments.

Strengthened expertise

The most comprehensive measure is to strengthen adults’ expertise in working in good, safe kindergarten and school environments where everyone is included in the social community. Adults must also have the expertise to prevent, uncover and handle bullying in kindergartens and schools. Expertise measures are differentiated in order to be best adapted to the challenges that the individual owners and authorities have in their schools and kindergartens. The measures include leaders, teachers and other employees in kindergartens and schools, as well as employees who work with this subject area in the municipalities. The different expertise measures are discussed in more detail on the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training’s web pages Barnehage- og skolemiljø (udir.no) and Kompetansepakker om barnehage og skolemiljø (udir.no).

School environment regulations

From 1st August 2017, new regulations regarding pupils’ school environment came into force (Chapter 9A of the Education Act). The Education Act gives all pupils the right to a good and safe school environment which promotes health, well-being and learning. There is a statutory zero tolerance against bullying. Bullying, violence, discrimination, harassment and other offenses are unacceptable in school.

With the change in the law in 2017, an activity obligation was introduced, requiring schools to act quickly and efficiently to ensure that every individual pupil is safe and well at school. Everyone who works at a school has a duty to follow along with what is happening at the school, to intervene if they discover violations such as bullying, violence or discrimination, and to immediately notify the principal if they suspect that a student is not experiencing a safe and good school environment. The school will investigate the case immediately and put in place measures to ensure that the pupil is safe and well at school.

In addition, a stricter activity obligation was introduced in cases where bullying is done by school employees. In such cases, the principal must alert the municipality or county municipality. It is unacceptable for someone who works at the school to insult a pupil and this would involve a serious breach of the trust that the pupils, parents and society should be able to have in the adults and staff at the school.

At the same time, an enforcement scheme was introduced. The arrangement means that students who are not satisfied with the school’s follow-up of e.g. a bullying case can report the case to the County Governor. The County Governor will assess if the school has fulfilled its activity obligation, i.e. whether the school has done what can reasonably be expected to help the pupil. If the County Governor decides that the school has not fulfilled its obligation, schools can be ordered to put in place concrete measures to ensure a good, safe school environment for the pupil or pupils. If necessary, the County Governor can impose a coercive fine on the municipality/county municipality to ensure that it complies with the activity obligation. Figures from the County Governors show that the enforcement scheme is used actively. 

Regulations require that schools constantly focus on preventive work against bullying and preventing a bad school environment from occurring, including through competence development measures for staff. Schools are also obligated to inform pupils and parents on school environment rules and changes to the rules about school rules.

Ombudspersons for bullying in all counties

In 2018, ombudspersons for bullying were set up in all counties, in collaboration with the county municipalities.  The scheme is financed as a partnership between the state and the county municipalities, and all the county municipalities have chosen to participate in this collaboration. Ombudspersons for bullying will give support and guidance to children, pupils and parents in order to contribute to safeguarding children and pupils’ right to a good psychosocial environment in kindergartens and schools.

Kindergartens are involved 

The framework plan for kindergartens provides guidelines for how the owner, board, kindergarten teachers and staff should work to ensure that all children receive a kindergarten provision that safeguards care and play and promotes learning and education. Kindergartens must contribute to children’s well-being, joy of life, mastery and sense of self-worth and prevent abuse and bullying. Children will be able to try out different aspects of interaction, community and friendship, and receive support in mastering adversity, dealing with challenges and getting to know their own and other people’s feelings. Staff must ensure that the kindergarten is a safe and stimulating place, and promote an inclusive environment where all children can participate in and experience joy in play (cf. framework plan for the content and tasks of kindergartens 2017).

The Storting has adopted its own rules in the Kindergartens Act on the psychosocial environment in kindergartens. The new regulations introduce, among other things, an activity obligation to ensure that those who work in kindergartens monitor how the children are doing in kindergarten, and that kindergartens implement suitable measures when a child does not have a safe and good kindergarten environment.