Major differences in the After-School scheme

Prime Minister Erna Solberg After-SchoolPrime Minister Erna Solberg and Torbjørn Røe Isaksen visit Løren school in Oslo for this year's school start: (2018) Photo: Terje Bendiksby / NTB scanpix

Major differences in the After-School scheme in Norway

The After-School Scheme (SFO) is starting up again these days. There are, however, major differences in the SFO offer in Norway, both in terms of price and the type of arrangement that meets the children.

The most expensive After-School scheme in Norway is in Smøla municipality in Møre & Romsdal. Parents must pay NOK 3,877 a month for a full-time place there, according to figures from the Primary School Information System (GSI) for 2018/2019.

Hot on their heels follows Sauda municipality in Rogaland, where a full-time place costs NOK 3,712 and Sauherad in Telemark, where the same costs NOK 3,460.

From zero to 4k

The decidedly cheapest is the Gratangen in Troms, where After-School is free. Berlevåg in Finnmark comes in second place. Parents or guardians must pay NOK 850 for a full-time position in the scheme here. Third cheapest is Sunndal in Møre & Romsdal, where it costs NOK 1,057 a month.

Prices range from zero to close to NOK 4,000. It is not a given that those who pay the most have the best offer, though.

There are, namely, major differences in the quality of the SFO service, according to a national evaluation of the scheme, conducted by NTNU Social Research in 2018.

Want to enforce a framework

The evaluation was carried out on behalf of the Norwegian government. It was presented in December.

In some places, the scheme is described as pure «storage areas», where the children are solely supervised.

The Parents’ Committee for Primary Education (FUG) has long called for such an evaluation. It now asks that it is followed up.

“We anticipated that major differences would be uncovered in this report and that it will enforce a standard for the After-School offer,” Leader of FUG, Gunn Iren Gulløy Müller, tells NTB.

There is currently no maximum price for SFO, a national discount scheme or similar requirements for how the offer should be organised.

FUG believes that a pricing and a framework for SFO similar to that for kindergartens must be introduced nationwide.

They want a requirement for how many staff who must be present – and what proportion of these should be pedagogues.

“We are calling for a comprehensive offer. Then it is necessary to have a well-qualified pedagogue heading the SFO, for this to be something more than simply a storage area,” Müller states.

No maximum price for After-School without funding

The Norwegian Association of Municipalities (KS) does, unlike FUG, not miss a national framework for the organisation of After-School.

Director of Interest Policy of KS, Helge Eide, believes that this is necessary to put in place, though – if a maximum price is to be introduced.

Price regulation is entirely possible, but in that case, it must come hand in hand with government grants, Eide believes.

“A maximum price, without grants, is hard to imagine. There are, however, many things that the Norwegian Parliament wants to prioritise in the municipalities, and there are, quite simply, not enough means for everything,” he asserts.


Stricter requirements

Minister of Education and Integration, Jan Tore Sanner (Conservatives), points out that municipal compensation entails that the requirements must be stricter than those currently in force.

“It is common for municipalities to be compensated for added expenses when requirements are introduced. That entails that the requirements are stricter than those currently in force,” Sanner emphasises.

There will be a parliamentary report on early efforts and inclusive togetherness this autumn. the Norwegian government will follow-up on the evaluation of SFO then. It will also present its policy towards the After-School scheme over the next few years, according to the Cabinet Minister.

“We are considering both measures for better quality and a rebate scheme for low-income families,” Sanner concludes.

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