Norway shows it can be done

24th July 1998 at 01:00
Assistants have been operating successfully in Norwegian classrooms for more than 10 years but only now are child and youth workers turning themselves into a new profession. Four years ago the country reformed vocational education for 16 to 19-year-olds, a move that is now producing a generic worker able to help in nurseries, schools, after-school clubs and youth clubs.

Wenche Ronning, deputy director of education in Nordland, on a visit to the Edinburgh area this week, said the first batch of graduates from the four-year course would shortly be reaching the workplace.

Students, mostly young women, study in college for two years before moving on to work placements for a further two years.

Mrs Ronning said: "These graduates are better prepared for work and they have gone from unskilled workers to skilled workers. We do not yet know how this will affect their position and pay."

Assistants are common in Nordland classrooms, especially as there are no special schools, but they have operated largely without specific training.

Mrs Ronning said there were initial fears from the unions about the teacher's position being eroded but these have largely been discounted.

Nordland, which is above the Arctic Circle, is developing links with West Lothian.

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