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A beginner’s guide to work and life in Norway

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by Millionsandmillions, Feb 29, 2020.

  1. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    Here at the TES Teaching Overseas forum, I often see generalisations such as “all reputable schools would...” or “at any school, X is a signal of...” and think “this would not apply in Norway”. So, after providing fragmented examples of the Norwegian way, often without context, I thought it would be fitting to try to show the whole picture of life at an international school in Norway.

    The schools
    There are 42 international schools in Norway. 41 schools offering minimum one IB programme, and one IPC/IMYC/IGCSE school. Traditionally, only IB schools have been approved by the Norwegian directorate of training and education, but legislative changes have eased this in recent years.

    18 schools offer the IB PYP, of which one is a state schools and 17 are independent schools.

    15 schools offer the IB MYP, of which all are independent schools.

    25 schools offer the IB DP, of which 3 are private (tuition fee funded), 2 are independent and 20 are public.

    1 school offers the IB CP, this is an independent school.

    Types of organisation
    Independent schools, friskoler, receive 85% of the state funding of a public school. The remaining 15% may be charged in tuition fees. Independent school tuition fees are therefore around 20 000 NOK (1660 GBP) per year, and some also offer scholarships to families who find themselves financially constrained. Being easily financially accessible, independent schools attract students from all socio-economic backgrounds, as far as there are variations in socio-economic backgrounds in Norway. Independent schools are more heavily regulated by Norwegian legislation than fully private schools and must adhere to many of the same laws as public schools. Cf. the independent school act, all tuition fees and state funding must benefit the students. Independent schools may not take out profits, and most of these schools are organised as trusts. Students at independent schools have the same legal right to SEN support as public school students, and the host municipality covers the cost of SEN.

    Private schools
    Private schools are funded by tuition fees only. Before the independent school act, this was the only way to organise international education. Although some former private schools are moving towards becoming independent, some private schools remain, especially in bigger cities with oil industry, embassies, consulates and the NATO. Private schools are less regulated by Norwegian law, and most funding structures available to public and independent schools are not available to private schools. This includes SEN reimbursements and some state funded professional development.

    Public schools
    There is a long tradition of Norwegian public high schools offering the diploma programme next to the national curriculum. In addition, there is now one public PYP school in Norway.

    There is a high degree of collaboration across the Norwegian international schools, networks exist at leadership levels and teacher levels.

    Working environment
    Norway is a high trust society, and in general, teachers trust the school leadership teams to make decisions which are in the best interest of students and teachers, while leadership trusts teachers to do their best in their roles, with minimum supervision.

    Around 80% of teachers in public schools are organised in a trade union. This is somewhat lower in other schools, partly due to international teachers from Anglo-American backgrounds not sharing the Scandinavian tradition of trade union and employer collaboration, but many heads work actively with the union to establish a strong union representation within their schools.

    In Norway, teacher workload is regulated by the trade union tariff agreement. Teachers work 1687.5 hours per year, and it usually looks something like this (because some international schools, especially IB schools, have local agreements which leadership and the local union negotiate, mainly because the IB requires a higher degree of collaboration than the national curriculum and therefore more in-school collaboration time).

    · 38 weeks teaching

    · Plus 9 planning/PD days (7.5*9)

    · Some evening events (eg 10 hours per year so teachers show up for personal project, exhibition, school plays etc)

    The remaining hours are divided by the 38 weeks, giving 42.38 hours work per week.

    The agreement sets out how many of the 42.38 hours are in-school. The standard agreement is 32 hours per week, but IB schools often negotiate more as teachers prefer to be able to collaborate with colleagues within a set time.

    The agreement also sets out how many hours you teach in a full-time position. The standard agreement weights subjects differently, but IB schools often weigh all subjects the same, e.g. 18 hours per week, homeroom teaches get 45 minutes less teaching time per week.

    Leadership does not follow you up and track that you work outside of in-school contact time and teachers usually work more early in their career and less when more established, but the 44.38 hours is seen as an average over a career and it’s based on trust.

    Most schools follow the trade union tariff agreement. The agreement considers years of experience and level of education. The levels of education are as follows:

    Adjunkt – four-year teacher education at bachelor level

    Adjunkt med tilleggsutdanning – Adjunkt with an additional year of study

    Lektor – five-year teacher education, 3 at bachelor level, 2 at master’s level including a master’s dissertation

    Lektor med tilleggsutdanning – Lektor with an additional year of study.

    International teachers must submit their transcripts online to NOKUT.no for assessment.

    The pay scale is subject to biennial trade union negotiations. The pay scale for 2019-2020 is as follows:

    Years of experience Adjunkt Adjunkt med tillegg Lektor Lektor med tillegg
    0 450000 489700 514600 531700
    2 460000 499400 524400 542100
    4 470000 504000 530100 547800
    6 480000 508800 535600 553300
    8 500000 519100 540800 561300
    10 520000 536800 569700 588100
    16 530000 576900 623300 651000

    The above would be the minimum tariff salary. A teacher may get more per year for being a homeroom teacher or having other additional responsibilities.

    Equal pay conditions to locals and expats
    Norway is considered a high cost and high salary country on an international scale. Our salary is banded in accordance with the rates determined by annual collective bargaining through the trade union. Norway aims to be an equal society for all its inhabitants. Within a Norwegian context, it would not be natural to offer additional benefits to international hires. Instead, the salary we offer should be enough to live comfortably, choose your own accommodation and accumulate some savings. One difference between working in Norway and in an expat hub in a low-cost country is that cleaners, drivers, waiters etc. should also earn a fair wage. Therefore, it is less common for private persons to hire domestic help and it would be relatively expensive to do so.

    Income tax
    Income tax percentage is based on a range of factors, with total annual income being the key factor. As a rule of thumb, estimate 30% income tax for a teachers’ salary. It will most likely be slightly lower.

    What does an example budget look like?
    The following budget is an example, in the local currency, Norwegian kroner.

    Example annual salary: 570 000

    Tax: 27%

    Monthly net salary: 34 675

    Budget for single person

    Monthly net salary

    34 675

    Rent (high)

    14 000

    Rent (low)

    9 000


    3 500







    Bus card


    Gym membership


    Savings (high rent)

    14 375

    Savings (low rent)

    19 375

    While some international schools cover two annual return flights home per school year, this is not common practice in Norway. Our assessment is that our Norwegian staff members travel as frequently as our international hires. Instead, all employees in Norway earn additional holiday pay which is paid out in June and which is meant to help you pay for your holidays. This is calculated as follows:

    12,5% of the earnings the previous year minus a deduction of five weeks holiday (the five weeks holiday is unpaid, while the rest of the teachers’ breaks is time off for working more than a standard work week during the school year). The holiday pay is not taxable.

    Example holiday pay calculation:

    Annual salary: 57 000 EUR

    Tax: 27%

    Monthly salary after tax: 3 467 EUR

    Pay in June (holiday pay minus salary deduction instead of regular pay): 5 743 EUR

    The first June you work in Norway, the salary for the previous year will be five months’ salary, not a full year. This first year, many schools will deduct less pay for holiday, so that you break even based on a normal month of pay. Your holiday allowance is still taken out in full.

    The benefits of the welfare state apply to international hires from the day your contract commences. This means that the state and local authorities have a responsibility for ensuring that all Norway’s inhabitants have access to certain fundamental goods such as education, the health service and income in the form of benefits or social security if they are unable to work. Most Norwegians will not pay into a private health insurance. You will be charged a highly subsidized rate for services such as GP visits and prescriptions, but if your payments exceed 245 EUR over the course of a year, you will not be charged for further services.

    While the typical Anglo-American leadership is often based on authority, Scandinavian leaders are known for encouraging dialogue across the organisation, involving employees in decision-making. Leaders work closely with their employees and there is a short power-distance between leadership and other employees. We believe this spurs motivation and ownership. The Scandinavian leadership model also emphasises the importance of delegating work. Instead of micro-managing projects, which can be both stressful and time consuming, employees are trusted to execute tasks in alignment with a common goal. The model is based on teamwork and the notion that every employee has a voice, responsibilities and influence.Another aspect of Scandinavian leadership is the custom of sharing knowledge and important information with each other. In Norway, it’s not unusual for leaders to practice full transparency. This creates an environment that is based on mutual trust and a sense of shared responsibilities and common goals.

    Manifestations of this view of leadership may be:

    - The view of the leader at the bottom of an inverted pyramid, lifting staff up and recognizing them for their accomplishments.

    - The role of the leader is to make the other members of the team good, and to take responsibility when things do not work

    - A flat hierarchy where assistants, teachers and leaders are equal parts who are equally valuable and respected

    - Decisions are reached in collaboration. The voices of the teachers are important in decision-making processes and they should be involved at an early phase of the process, not when a decision has been reached. When decisions cannot be reached in collaboration, the leader’s decision stands.

    - The teachers’ time is respected. The leadership team may make decisions concerning certain aspects of their time, while other parts of their time is protected. This also applies to time outside of contracted working hours. Norway has been ranked as one of the best countries to live in (many times). One of the reasons might be that Norwegians are nailing work-life balance. Employers recognise the importance of having a life outside the office, and a collective understanding that family and health come first.

    - Respect is something you earn. Scandinavian leaders don’t get respect from their employees just by title. Respect is earned by including, sharing and communicating. Leaders must be prepared to be told if their employees disagree with them. The Scandinavian leadership model actually encourages different opinions and relies on people expressing them. By doing so, trust, loyalty and relationships are built.

    Why work in Norway?
    Teachers who chose to move to Norway tend to stay for the long term. A relatively high cost of living, lack of expat benefits and equality in pay among expats and locals mean this is not a location you chose for a short-term stint to earn your money and go. While you could save up to £ 1500 per month as a single teacher in Norway, this forum shows that the potential to save is higher in high-risk locations.

    Norway offers a good work/life balance, fair and transparent pay conditions, access to nature, sports, leisure activities, highly subsidised and very good quality kindergartens, a strong welfare state, solid labour protection rights, free university education, a trust based society, among other things.

    Happy to answer any questions in comments
  2. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    Recruitment season in Norway
    A first contract may be temporary (often one year, 01.08-31.07). This is usually to give the candidate time to have their papers approved from NOKUT. Subsequently, permanent employment is common, and the notion is that you have a job for life unless you chose to move. Most employees have 3 months notice, and can therefore hand in their notice before the the first of May and not return in August. Therefore, this forum's discussions of "february being late in the recruitment season" doesn't make much sense to Norwegian schools. All we can do is hope our colleagues hand in their notice early if they are to leave (e.g. in March), so we can start our recruitment processes.
  3. Bytor

    Bytor Occasional commenter

    Thanks for this post and the comprehensive information you have provided.


    tb9605 and Millionsandmillions like this.
  4. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    Professional development opportunities
    In addition to the IB workshops and conferences (Norwegian schools mainly send participants to workshops within Europe), the Norwegian IB schools collaborate through their own network and organise "job a-like" days where teachers across the schools network visit one of the schools to collaborate on a topic, such as a subject, grade or role specific matter (exhibtion, early years, PYP library..) or a concept (inquiry, differentiation, etc.).

    University education is free at all public Norwegian universities. Further to this, the directorate of education and training funds further studies for teachers, including paying for release time of 37.5% or giving a stipend (one off payout of 116 000 kr/approx 10 000 GBP of taxable income) for 30 ECTS credits over one year. University education in Norway is usually in Norwegian, with a Norwegian B2 language requirement, but the directorate's funding also applies to international programmes, including the IB recognised online masters' degrees in educational leadership and international teaching among others, and the Norwegian government pays the school fees as well as the stipend/release time.

    Lastly, the Norwegian independent schools at PYP and MYP level receive government funding for a network based PD programme delived by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. This programme is developed based on the needs of the schools.
  5. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    To clarify: the 18 hours a week teaching load is an estimated average for primary and middle schools. In secondary schools 14 hours per week is more accurate.
  6. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    There are two Norwegian schools where we are in Spain which, I am told by parents of students there, are subsidised by the Norwegian government. Does that mean they are friskoler?
  7. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    There are two Norwegian friskoler in mainland Spain.
  8. Mitochondria1

    Mitochondria1 Occasional commenter

    So how do I get a job in Norway? Or is there no way I will be able to? Never see anything on TES.
  9. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    In my experience there's not really one job site used more than the others, some use Search Associates, others use TES, IB school jobs etc. It could be worth contacting the individual schools to ask about their hiring needs. You could also send me a PM with your background and types of jobs that are of interest and if I hear of anything I can let you know.
  10. Mitochondria1

    Mitochondria1 Occasional commenter

    I can't send PM's at the moment...but basically I'm from a science background (Biology), with leadership experience.
  11. Purple-Penguin

    Purple-Penguin New commenter

    Thank you for your posts on living and teaching in Norway. I have long desired to live and work in Norway and the information you have given is really useful.
    I would love to ask you more questions, or give you my background, and if you’d be happy to PM me, I would be really grateful. Thanks!
  12. funkymonkey

    funkymonkey New commenter

    I lived and worked in Norway for 16 years, I did my PCGE in Norway and taught in State Schools. There are few private schools and most of the staff are partners of people who have gone there for other reasons.
    It is extremely expensive and the weather is awful. Its a tough country to crack, almost everyone speaks good English and it is hard to get work in schools, even with Norwegian qualifications and being fluent in Norwegian it is hard to get teaching work.
    Norwegians are not very social animals and it is easy to be lonely there. Not as bad as Finnish people but pretty bad. (My wife is Finnish, she hardly talks to me :) never mind anyone else )
    There are lots of positives but just understand that there are a lot of negative things that can easily get one down. I left 7 years ago and although I really enjoyed my life there, I can't say I miss it.
  13. Englishteacher369

    Englishteacher369 New commenter

    This is such a helpful guide so thank you very much for posting this.
    My Norwegian partner and I (a Brit) are hoping to move to Oslo towards the end of the summer - obviously it’s a bit difficult to plan at the moment. I’m hunting for a position teaching English to 11-18 year olds as I’m qualified to do.

    Any advice on how to go about this would be greatly appreciated. Do schools tend to respond positively to Cvs out of the blue? Been using websites like the ones you mentioned but no positions available at the moment. What part of Norway do you work / have you worked in?

    Thanks in advance!
  14. funkymonkey

    funkymonkey New commenter

    I would try folkunversitetet first, it is for adults and part time but will give you a foot in the door maybe. You can try international schools but most likely you will have to start on a substitute basis. You can forget state schools until you are fluent in Norwegian. Proof reading might be another option. I got 600 quid per dissertation in the mid 2000s.

    On the plus side even cleaning jobs pay well. In 1997 I was earning 12 gbp an hour washing dishes and 28 gbp an hour teaching English at folkunversitetet.
  15. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    It depends on your education. If you have a B. Ed, PGCE or other teacher education, including 60 (ECTS) credits in English, you are qualified to teach English to the age group you mention, in an international school in Norway. In a Norwegian curriculum (non-international) school you would need Norwegian at B2 level as well.

    If you have TESOL or equivalent, this is not recognised as a teaching degree in Norway, so landing a job at a school would be tricky, but as funkymonkey mentions, substitute work at international school could be an option.

    Are you looking for Oslo commuting distance, or jobs in the general South East area?

    Most international schools will be recruiting locally within Norway this year, so chances are best for qualified teachers already living in Norway. If you're in a position to move because of your partner, I'm sure a lot of schools would be happy to look at your CV.

    Feel free to send me a message with more specific information about your background and what you're looking for and I can let you know which jobs I know of.
  16. Englishteacher369

    Englishteacher369 New commenter

    Thanks very much for your advice!
  17. Englishteacher369

    Englishteacher369 New commenter

    Thanks for your reply - unfortunately I can’t send private messages yet as I’m fairly new to commenting on threads. I’ll try to get a bit more active then hopefully I can.
    Yes I have a PGCE secondary English from the uk and 5 years experience teaching in the UK and Italy where I am now.
    Im looking for something within an hours commuting into Oslo centre.
    Yes it seems the rules for non Norwegians entering Norway at the moment is that you need to have a work contract in place to cross the border. I’m in the process of reaching out to a few schools but of course it’d be much easier for them to look locally as you say.

    thanks again for your advice and I hope to keep in touch!
  18. Millionsandmillions

    Millionsandmillions New commenter

    I'll send you a message :)
  19. danillitroff

    danillitroff New commenter

    I've been to Norway and I must to admit the people around there. They are quite nice and generous guys I've ever seen in my life. Norwegians generally have a simple approach to clothes – often focusing on practical, comfortable garments. This is also reflected in educational and professional settings: there is, for instance, rarely a strict dress code.

    That said, it is worth noting that there has been a significant change in recent years. In keeping with the rise of the minimalist Nordic/Scandinavian style, we see increasing numbers of formally dressed (and well-dressed) Norwegians – both young and old. The same tendency towards formality is also evident in other areas of public life, for instance in conversation and public debate. This shift towards formality does not mean that Norwegians leave their all-weather jackets and practical shoes at home, or adopt more formal forms of address. It is rather a sign that Norwegians, as a result of increasing globalisation and prosperity, have learned to adapt to the expected etiquette.
  20. katlynch

    katlynch New commenter

    Hi, thank you for all of the info here - it was helpful in my decision to accept an offer for a school in Norway. I am delighted to be moving there in August and now need to start getting to grips with logistics.

    We are moving as a family of 3, and I am the sole earner (my partner has MS), so I know it will be tight. My son will (subject to his application being accepted) be attending the school I work at, so that is helpful!

    Any advice, experience sharing, warnings etc., from people that have made the transition, are definitely welcome. Oslo is the closest big city - the school/where we intend to live is in the Viken region.

    Thanks in advance.


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