Schools as social and learning communities: Scotland and Norway
Fjeld Lofsnaes, Nina
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Wrigley, T. & Fjeld Lofsnaes, N. (2005) Schools as social and learning communities: Scotland and Norway. Improving Schools, 8(1), pp. 23-45.
This article reports on a pilot study examining the possible impact of the very different structures of Scottish and Norwegian schools. It compares the situation in Scotland, as in other parts of the UK, where lower secondary classes normally have 12-15 teachers, each for 1-3 hours, and the Norwegian school, where a team of 5 or 6 teachers is attached to a year group, providing for the pupils’ personal needs and social development as well as the academic curriculum. It seeks to relate these different structures to a greater level of trust and connectedness between Norwegian pupils and teachers, as well as the pupils’ sense of personal efficacy. This exploratory study points towards a relationship between pupil well-being and school size and structure. This is set against the background of a) the high frequency of exclusions from the lower years of Scottish secondary schools, particularly among boys of lower socio-economic backgrounds; and b) research which shows that pupils develop less troubled behaviour and enjoy better relationships in smaller schools, and that ethnic minority and low SES pupils in particular achieve higher. The former is indicative of considerable turbulence in the early years of Scottish secondary schools; the latter points towards a probable relationship between school size and structure, on the one hand, and ethos and achievement on the other, particularly for less advantaged populations. Whilst falling short of a ‘proof’, this small pilot study, conducted with limited resources, nevertheless provides sufficient data to suggest that we should critically re-examine some of the current norms of secondary school organisation in the UK and similar systems. The study has implications for the generation of social capital and the development of learning communities.