Primary Schools in Norway: A 2024 Guide for Parents


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Moving to a new country comes with a host of challenges, and if you have children, education is likely at the top of your list of concerns. Norway offers a robust and well-rounded education system that places a strong emphasis on the well-being and holistic development of each child.

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This is true right from the early stages of primary education, where the foundation for lifelong learning is laid. Learn everything you need to know about primary schools in Norway here.

Key Takeaways

  • Norway offers a variety of school types, including public, private, and international schools, to cater to diverse needs.
  • Public schools are generally free and inclusive, while private schools might offer specialized programs but can incur additional costs.
  • International schools provide an English-language curriculum but may have higher fees and specific admission requirements.
  • Norwegian schools emphasize language and cultural integration, making it a vital part of the educational experience.
  • A typical school day in Norway is structured but also includes ample time for free play and outdoor activities.
  • Parental involvement is highly encouraged, with regular meetings and opportunities to participate in school events.

A Quick Snapshot of Norway’s Education System

In Norway, the education system is divided into several key stages:

  • Barnehage (Kindergarten): For children aged 1 to 5 years. Though not mandatory, most Norwegian children attend kindergarten.
  • Barneskole (Primary School): For children aged 6 to 13 years. This covers 1st to 7th grade.
  • Ungdomsskole (Lower Secondary School): For ages 13 to 16, covering 8th to 10th grade.
  • Videregående skole (Upper Secondary School): For ages 16 to 19, covering 11th to 13th grade.

The Role of Primary Education in Norwegian Society

Norway places a significant emphasis on education, viewing it as not just a gateway to professional success but also as a platform for personal growth and social engagement. This perspective is ingrained right from the primary school level. Teachers are highly trained, and schools are generally well-equipped to provide an environment conducive to learning and development.

Types of Primary Schools in Norway

Types of Primary Schools in Norway

Navigating the landscape of primary schools in a new country can be a daunting task. In Norway, you’ll find a range of options that cater to diverse educational philosophies and needs.

Public Schools (Offentlige skoler)

Norwegian public schools are the backbone of the educational system. They are funded by the government and offer a standardized curriculum. Public schools are popular for their comprehensive and balanced educational approach.

  • Curriculum: Follows the Norwegian National Curriculum, which is a broad-based program covering languages, mathematics, social sciences, and more.
  • Language: Instruction is primarily in Norwegian, although English is introduced at an early age.
  • Eligibility: All children residing in Norway are eligible to attend public schools.
  • Fees: Public schools are free of charge, including books and materials, although there may be a small fee for after-school programs.

Private Schools (Private skoler)

Private schools in Norway often offer specialized or alternative forms of education and are funded through tuition fees and sometimes partial government grants.

  • Curriculum: May follow the Norwegian National Curriculum or alternative educational philosophies like Montessori or Waldorf.
  • Language: Instruction may be in Norwegian or English, depending on the school.
  • Eligibility: Generally open to all, although some may have specific admission criteria.
  • Fees: Tuition fees vary widely, so it’s important to budget accordingly.

International Schools

International schools are a popular choice among expats and usually offer curricula from other countries, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), British, or American programs.

  • Curriculum: Aligned with international standards, offering programs like IB, A-levels, or the American curriculum.
  • Language: Instruction is predominantly in English.
  • Eligibility: Open to all, but especially geared towards expatriate families.
  • Fees: These schools are often the most expensive option, so it’s advisable to check the fee structure carefully.

Montessori and Other Alternative Schools

For parents interested in a less traditional educational approach, Norway also has several Montessori and Waldorf schools.

  • Curriculum: Focuses on child-led learning and holistic development.
  • Language: Usually Norwegian, but some schools offer bilingual programs.
  • Eligibility: Open to all, though space may be limited.
  • Fees: Costs can vary, so make sure to inquire during your school visit.

Choosing the right type of school for your child depends on a variety of factors, including your educational philosophy, budget, and long-term plans.

Admission Process

This is the part where paperwork and deadlines make their grand entrance. But fret not, the enrollment procedure for primary schools in Norway is generally straightforward and well-organized. Let’s break it down into easy-to-follow steps.

Age of Enrollment

In Norway, children start primary school the year they turn six. The school year generally starts in mid-August and ends in mid-June of the following year.

Documentation Required

You’ll need to provide some essential documents to enroll your child in a Norwegian school. Here’s a quick list to keep handy:

  • Proof of residence (utility bill, rental agreement, etc.)
  • Your child’s birth certificate
  • Immunization records
  • Any special educational needs assessments, if applicable

Registration Procedures

For Public Schools, the process usually goes like this:

  1. Local Authority Notification: Upon moving to Norway, you’ll register with your local municipality. This registration often triggers an automatic enrollment process for school-age children.
  2. School Assignment: Based on your address, your child will be assigned a local school. You do have the right to apply for a different public school if you wish.
  3. Application Form: Some municipalities require an application form to be filled out. This is often available online on the municipality’s website.
  4. Confirmation: Once the school receives your application and documents, they will confirm your child’s enrollment, often with a welcome packet containing useful information.

For Private and International Schools, the process varies:

  1. Research and Shortlist: Start by researching schools that fit your criteria.
  2. Application: Fill out the application form, which usually requires supplementary documents like previous school records.
  3. Interview/Test: Some schools might require an entrance test or an interview—sometimes both—for admission.
  4. Acceptance: Upon acceptance, you’ll likely need to pay a deposit to secure your child’s spot.

Timelines to Keep in Mind

Deadlines for school applications can differ based on the type of school and municipality:

Public Schools: Generally, if you are registered in a municipality, you’ll be contacted automatically. Still, it’s good to check with the local education office.

Private and International Schools: These schools often have rolling admissions, but due to high demand, it’s recommended to apply as early as possible.

Public vs. Private: Making the Choice

Deciding between a public and a private school for your child is one of the most crucial educational decisions you’ll make as a parent. Both come with their unique benefits and potential drawbacks.

Public Schools: The Heartbeat of Norwegian Education

Public schools in Norway are ubiquitous and are generally of high quality.

Public schools are free of charge, which can significantly ease the financial burden on families.

Being neighborhood-based, your child’s school is often close to home, making daily logistics simpler.

These schools are great if you plan on staying in Norway long-term, as they provide excellent immersion into the local language and culture.

What to Consider

The primary language of instruction is Norwegian, which could be a challenge for non-Norwegian-speaking children initially.

Curriculum is standardized, leaving little room for alternative educational philosophies.

Private Schools: Tailored Educational Experiences

Private schools, on the other hand, offer a more tailored educational experience but come with their own set of factors to consider.

Many private schools offer specialized curricula, be it in the arts, sciences, or alternative educational philosophies.

Generally, private schools have fewer students per class, allowing for more individualized attention.

What to Consider

Tuition fees can be a significant investment, so make sure to check what’s covered in the tuition and what’s not.

Some private schools may have rigorous admission standards, including interviews and entrance exams.

International Schools: A Blend of Global and Local

International schools combine elements of both public and private schools.

They offer internationally recognized curricula, making it easier for expat families who might move again.

Instruction is usually in English, making it easier for expat children to adapt.

What to Consider

International schools are often the most expensive option.

While global in outlook, attending an international school may limit your child’s immersion into Norwegian language and culture.

Related: International Schools in Norway

Making Your Choice

When choosing between public, private, and international schools, consider the following questions:

  • How long do you plan to stay in Norway?
  • What are your financial constraints?
  • Does your child have any special educational needs?
  • How important is it for your family to integrate into Norwegian society?

International Schools: An Overview

International Schools: An Overview

A Home Away From Home: The International School Experience

If you’re an expat parent or just someone who prefers an international curriculum, an international school might be the right fit for your family. These schools offer a slice of familiarity in a new environment, making the transition to life in Norway a bit smoother.

The Curriculum: A Global Perspective

International schools usually offer globally recognized curricula, making them a popular choice for families who may move countries frequently. Here’s a look at some common programs:

International Baccalaureate (IB): A comprehensive curriculum that encourages critical thinking and a global mindset.

British Curriculum: Focuses on the English National Curriculum, leading to GCSEs and A-Levels.

American Curriculum: Typically follows the Common Core State Standards, leading to a high school diploma.

Admission Requirements: What You Need to Know

Just like with any school, there’s a bit of paperwork involved. However, the specifics can vary greatly from one international school to another. Here are some common requirements:

Application Form: The basic information about your child, including academic history.

School Records: Transcripts or report cards from previous schools are usually mandatory.

Language Proficiency: Some schools may require proof of proficiency in the language of instruction.

Interview: Many schools have an interview process to gauge whether your child is a good fit for their program.

Tuition and Other Fees: The Investment in Education

International schools are generally the pricier option when it comes to education in Norway. Here’s what you might expect:

Tuition: Fees can range widely, sometimes exceeding NOK 100,000 per year.

Additional Costs: Extracurricular activities, trips, and sometimes even textbooks might be extra.

Plan Ahead

Since international schools often have limited space and can be quite popular, it’s wise to start the admission process well in advance.

The Social Scene: Diverse and Inclusive

One of the major perks of international schools is the diversity you’ll find. Children from all over the world come together, offering a unique opportunity for cultural exchange right in the classroom.

Parent Networks

International schools often have very active parent-teacher associations and offer numerous family-oriented activities throughout the year.

By opting for an international school, you’re not just choosing a curriculum; you’re choosing a community. A community that understands the expat experience and can offer a supportive, familiar environment for both you and your child as you navigate life in Norway.

Language and Cultural Integration

Finding the Balance: Language and Cultural Immersion

Settling into a new country involves more than just understanding its school system; it’s also about becoming a part of its culture and community. And what better way to do that than through language and cultural integration?

Here’s how the various types of schools in Norway facilitate—or sometimes limit—this essential aspect of expat life.

Related: Au Pair in Norway

Public Schools: A Deep Dive into Norwegian Culture

When it comes to fully integrating into Norwegian society, public schools offer an unparalleled experience. Your child will not only learn the Norwegian language but also gain a deep understanding of local customs, traditions, and social norms.

Starting school in a new language might sound daunting, but children are often quick learners. Many public schools offer additional Norwegian language classes for children who are new to the language.

Participation in local traditions, festivals, and community activities is integral to the public school experience.

Private Schools: The Middle Ground

Private schools offer a bit of both worlds, depending on their focus and curriculum.

some private schools in Norway offer bilingual programs, many stick to Norwegian as the primary language of instruction, supplemented by English.

Private schools may also offer a mix of Norwegian and international cultural events, providing a broader perspective.

International Schools: Global Citizens in a Local World

International schools, while offering the comfort of familiar curricula and languages, can sometimes create a bubble that might limit exposure to local language and culture.

The primary language of instruction is usually English, but most international schools also offer Norwegian as a second language.

While these schools will celebrate international events and holidays, Norwegian cultural activities might be less frequent.

Something to Consider

If cultural and linguistic integration in Norway is high on your priority list, you might want to supplement your child’s international school experience with local activities or language programs.

Mixing and Matching for Success

Many families find success by combining different approaches. For instance, your child could attend a public or private school while also participating in language classes or cultural activities offered by international communities. Some families even start in one type of school and transition to another as their needs and priorities evolve.

Daily School Routine

A Day in the Life: What to Expect from a Typical School Day

Navigating a new school system is one thing, but what about the day-to-day? If you’re wondering what a typical school day looks like in Norway, you’re not alone. Whether it’s wondering when the school day starts or what’s on the lunch menu, we’ve got you covered.

Public Schools: A Snapshot

In most Norwegian public schools, the day starts around 8:30 AM and finishes around 2:30 PM, though these times can vary slightly from one school to another. Here’s a quick look:

Morning Assembly: Many schools start with a morning assembly for announcements and maybe a song or two.

Class Time: Subjects like Math, Norwegian, and Science are interspersed with breaks.

Recess: Kids get several outdoor recess periods to play and socialize, regardless of the weather—so make sure they’re dressed appropriately!

Lunch Time: A Brown Bag Affair

Norwegian public schools usually don’t have a cafeteria serving hot lunches. Instead, children bring their packed lunches from home, often a couple of open-faced sandwiches and some fruit.

Private and International Schools: A Different Flavor

While private and international schools generally follow the same start and end times as public schools, there are some differences:

Structured Curriculum: With specialized programs, you might find the day broken down into various subjects, workshops, and extracurricular activities.

Lunch: Some private and international schools offer cafeteria services where students can purchase hot lunches.

Extracurriculars: More Choices

Private and international schools often offer a broader array of after-school activities, from sports to arts to coding, often until about 4:30 PM or 5:00 PM.

Homework and Family Time

The amount of homework your child receives can vary by school and grade level. Norwegian schools, however, are known for their balanced approach to homework, recognizing the importance of family time and extracurricular activities.

Public Schools: Homework is generally manageable and often involves reading or small projects.

Private and International Schools: These might have a more rigorous homework policy, especially for older grades.

Practicalities: Drop-off and Pick-up

Whether it’s a ride-share schedule with other parents or taking advantage of Norway’s excellent public transport system, planning your daily drop-off and pick-up routine is essential.

Public Schools: Given their neighborhood locations, walking or biking to school is common.

Private and International Schools: These may be farther away, so check if the school offers a bus service.

Parental Involvement

Building Bridges: Your Role in Your Child’s Education

In Norway, the idea of “it takes a village to raise a child” isn’t just a saying; it’s a part of the educational culture. Schools highly value parental involvement, seeing it as essential to a child’s overall well-being and educational success. So, let’s explore how you can be an active participant in your child’s Norwegian school experience.

Public Schools: Community at the Core

In public schools, parents are often seen as equal partners in their child’s education. Various opportunities allow you to engage:

Parent Meetings: Held a few times a year, these are a space for dialogue between teachers and parents.

School Councils: Interested parents can get involved in the school council to contribute to decision-making at the school.

Volunteering: An Open Door

Many public schools welcome parental volunteers for various activities—be it a reading day, a school trip, or organizing a fundraiser. It’s a great way to get to know the community better and contribute in a meaningful way.

Private and International Schools: A Range of Opportunities

Private and international schools usually offer even more formalized channels for parental involvement:

Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs): These organizations offer various ways to be active, from event planning to participating in meetings about school policies.

Classroom Assistance: Some private schools welcome parents into the classroom to assist with specific activities or projects.

Networking: Beyond the Classroom

PTAs often organize social events and seminars that provide a platform for parents to network and discuss common issues, from academics to adapting to life in Norway.

Communication: Keeping the Lines Open

No matter the type of school, effective communication between home and school is highly valued:

Regular Updates: Most schools send out newsletters or have a dedicated online portal where parents can get updates on upcoming events, changes in schedules, or other important information.

Parent-Teacher Conferences: These are essential touchpoints for discussing your child’s progress, behavior, and any concerns you may have.

Navigating Cultural Differences

As an international parent, you might find some Norwegian practices different from what you’re used to. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification. Schools are usually quite understanding and can help guide you through any cultural nuances.

Special Educational Needs

Special Educational Needs

Every Child Matters: Navigating Special Educational Support in Norway

When your family moves to a new country, settling into a school system can be challenging enough. But when your child has special educational needs, that layer of complexity can feel even more daunting. Let’s demystify the approach Norway takes toward special educational needs to help you find the best fit for your child.

Understanding Special Educational Needs in Norway

Norway follows the principle of inclusive education, aiming to accommodate all children, regardless of their needs, in a standard classroom setting as far as possible.

Identification: The first step involves identifying your child’s specific needs, which can be initiated by the school, a healthcare provider, or the parents.

Assessment: A detailed evaluation is typically performed by educational psychologists, often in collaboration with the school and healthcare providers.


If your child already has a diagnosis and has been receiving special educational support in your home country, bringing all relevant documentation can be incredibly helpful in speeding up this process.

Public Schools: Inclusive by Design

Public schools offer various types of assistance, depending on the child’s needs:

Educational Support Personnel: Special educators and support staff work alongside regular teachers to provide the required support.

Adapted Learning Plans: Customized learning plans are often developed to meet a child’s unique needs.

Financial Considerations

It’s worth noting that these support services are generally provided at no additional cost in public schools.

Private and International Schools: Case-by-Case

Private and international schools vary in their capacity to cater to special educational needs. Some may have specialized staff and resources, while others might not. Therefore, it’s essential to:

Ask Questions: Inquire about the school’s ability to meet your child’s needs during the admissions process.

Visit Facilities: If possible, tour the school to see if it has the right environment for your child.

Additional Costs

Depending on the level of support needed, some private schools might charge extra for these services.

Collaboration is Key: Working With the School

Regardless of the type of school your child attends, maintaining open communication with teachers and support staff is crucial for your child’s success.

Regular Meetings: Keep in touch with the school team to discuss your child’s progress and any adjustments that may be needed.

Involvement in Planning: Parents are often invited to participate in developing and updating their child’s individualized learning plan.

Health and Safety Measures

When it comes to schooling, nothing is more important than the health and safety of your child. The Norwegian school system takes various precautionary measures to ensure a secure learning environment.

Public Schools: Standard Procedures

In Norwegian public schools, the focus on health and safety is a fundamental part of the educational environment. Here are some key aspects to consider:

First Aid: Every school has first aid equipment, and staff members are trained to deal with minor injuries and emergencies.

Safety Drills: Schools regularly conduct fire and emergency drills to ensure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency.

All-Weather Play

Outdoor time is integral to Norwegian culture, even in schools. Children are expected to play outside unless the weather is extremely severe. So, ensure your child is appropriately dressed for all weather conditions.

Private and International Schools: Additional Layers

Given their diverse student bodies, private and international schools sometimes implement additional safety measures:

Security Personnel: Some schools employ security staff and have more restricted campus access.

Health Services: Many private schools have a nurse or even a small health office on-site for minor medical issues.

Vaccination Policies

International schools might have specific vaccination requirements, particularly if they cater to a global student body.

Mental Well-Being: A Growing Focus

The Norwegian school system is increasingly attentive to the mental well-being of students:

Counseling Services: Many schools offer counseling services for students dealing with stress, adjustment issues, or other mental health concerns.

Well-Being Programs: Schools often implement programs aimed at fostering a positive emotional and social environment.

Nutritional Considerations: Food Allergies and Dietary Restrictions

Whether your child brings lunch from home or eats at a school cafeteria in a private or international school, it’s essential to communicate any food allergies or dietary restrictions:

Public Schools: Notify the school about allergies, as snacks may sometimes be provided.

Private and International Schools: These often have systems in place for accommodating special dietary needs in their cafeterias.

When Sickness Strikes: Absence Policies

In case of illness, it’s generally advised to keep your child at home. Schools have guidelines for reporting absences and may require a doctor’s note for extended illnesses.

Public Schools: Usually require a note from a parent for short-term absences.

Private and International Schools: May have stricter policies and could require medical documentation for even shorter absences.

Essential Checklist for Parents

Essential Checklist for Parents

From Documents to Backpacks: Your Go-To List for School Preparation

Okay, you’ve done your research, selected a school, and maybe even attended an orientation or two. But as the first day of school inches closer, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. To make your life a bit easier, we’ve compiled an essential checklist for parents—consider it your lifeline for those “Did I forget something?” moments.

Paperwork and Official Documents

Getting all the official documentation sorted is step one:

  • Admission Confirmation: Make sure you have received official confirmation of your child’s admission.
  • Identity Documents: Copies of passports, visas, or residence permits are generally required.
  • Health Records: Immunization records and any other necessary health documents.

Extra tip:

Keep multiple copies of all important documents in a safe but accessible place—you’ll thank yourself later!

School Supplies

Each school will usually provide a list of required supplies, but some general items almost always needed include:

Backpack: Big enough to hold books, but not too big for your child to carry.

Writing Supplies: Pencils, erasers, and possibly pens for older kids.

Notebooks and Folders: For various subjects and to keep papers organized.


Some schools have specific guidelines for stationery. Stick to the list to ensure your child has exactly what they need.

Uniform and Dress Code

Uniform: If the school requires a uniform, make sure you have all the necessary components.

Footwear: Comfortable shoes suitable for walking and play.

Weather-appropriate clothing: Jackets, hats, and gloves for winter; lighter clothing for warmer months.

Lunch and Snacks

Lunchbox and Water Bottle: Choose easy-to-open options your child can manage independently.

Healthy Snacks: Think fruit slices, rice cakes, or vegetable sticks.

Allergy Alert

If your child has allergies, make sure to notify the school and maybe even include a note in their lunchbox as a reminder.

Emotional Preparation

Last but not least, preparing emotionally is just as important:

Discuss the Change: Talk to your child about what to expect, addressing any questions or worries they may have.

Visit the School: If possible, take a tour of the school to make the environment familiar.

Meet the Teachers: This will provide additional comfort, for both you and your child, knowing who will guide them through their days.

While this might look like a lot now, don’t worry—you don’t have to get it all done in one day. Take it step by step, and before you know it, you’ll be snapping that first-day-of-school photo with a confident smile, ready to embrace this new chapter in Norway.

Additional Resources

Utdanningsdirektoratet: The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training is an excellent source for official policies and statistics.

Skoleporten: This portal offers performance metrics and other data on individual schools, which can be useful when choosing a school.

School Communication Apps: Many schools use dedicated apps for parent-teacher communication, so make sure to download the one your school uses.

Language Learning Platforms: If language is a barrier, platforms like Duolingo offer Norwegian courses that can help both you and your child.


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