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Last Updated: Monday, 13 June 2005, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Norway's school day-care system

By Lars Bevanger
BBC Oslo

Plans for schools to open longer are being debated in England. In Norway, day-care programmes have to be provided by all municipalities.

Siblings Hanna and Einar Lunde Juliussen, aged eight and a half and seven, get up with their parents Turid and Gunnar at 7am.

After a family breakfast, they walk a short distance to their primary school with one of the parents.

"We normally get to the school at around 8am", says Gunnar, an insurance consultant.
Hanna and Einar Lunde Juliussen
The Juliussen children spend time at the school day-care centre

"Their school day doesn't start until 9am, but there is a day-care programme with staff taking care of them until then. This happens in one of the school buildings."

All Norwegian municipalities are required to provide such day-care programmes both before and after the regular school day, for all children aged six to nine.

"We decided to make this obligatory for all local municipalities, as we saw the need many parents had to extend the time children can be looked after at school", explains Helge Ole Bergesen, deputy minister of Education.

"It is up to the municipalities themselves to decide how to fund the programme. They can choose to ask the parents to pay 100% of the cost, or less."

'Reasonable cost'

At Hanna and Einar's school, parents pay the total cost of the day-care programme, which amounts to some 200 a month for them both.

Most parents here think that is a reasonable amount to pay for the service.

Their school day ends around 2pm. They then go back to the day-care centre, where they stay until mum or dad picks them up after work, usually around 4pm. The centre is open until four-thirty.

"For us it works out well", says Gunnar.

"We can both leave work in time to pick them up before the centre closes. But I see single parents who struggle.

"Some drop their children off as soon as the centre opens, at 7.30 in the morning, and struggle to get there on time to pick them up in the afternoon."

Compared to the UK, there is very little emphasis on a long-hours culture here
Anne Lise Elllingsaeter, Institute for Social Research, Oslo
Like many employers here, Gunnar's boss is flexible when it comes to allowing staff to leave in time to collect their children from school.

For many, leaving early is not even necessary. The Norwegian working week is 37.5 hours. Furthermore, few employers consider it a virtue for their staff to put in a lot of overtime.

"Compared to the UK, there is very little emphasis on a long-hours culture here", Anne Lise Elllingsaeter at the Institute for Social Research in Oslo, told the BBC News Website.

"And there is no sign of any increase in the amount of overtime people work, rather the opposite."

Criticism

A survey conducted for the Ministry of Education last year, showed a majority of Norwegian parents were happy with the existing day-care programmes for school children.

But there are critics who say there has not been enough emphasis on the contents of the care.

They say in some instances the day-care centres function merely as storage facilities, with no real educational programmes for the children.

The opposition Labour party has proposed extending school hours, allowing pupils to do some of their homework at school, with the help from teachers.

But teacher unions are not expected to accept such a scheme if it is not accompanied by considerable new funding.


SEE ALSO:
Kelly seeks more extended schools
13 Jun 05 |  Education
Extended school clubs 'voluntary'
27 Apr 05 |  Election 2005


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