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5-NORWEGIAN-SCHOOLS

International praise for Scotland’s Catholic schools

Scotland has been lauded as a front-runner in Catholic education by a visiting delegation of Norwegian teachers, who will seek Scottish support in tackling Catholic teacher shortages in their own country.

In the lead up to Catholic Education Week, the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES) welcomed headteachers from Norway’s five Catholic schools as they aim to develop their own country’s Faith education system to be more like Scotland’s.

The teachers are planning to adopt elements of the Scottish Catholic religious education syllabus and are hoping to work with Glasgow University in combating teacher shortages in Norwegian Catholic schools. The visit is part of an international outreach plan by SCES this year that will see a link-up with Catholic schools in other countries.

The headteachers—who lead the only five Catholic schools in Norway —visited as part of a two-day trip, where they spent time learning from pupils and staff at St Mungo’s High School and with student teachers at Glasgow University, as well as ­learning from SCES about the country’s Catholic education system.

SCES director Barbara Coupar said that ‘because of the close connectivity of Catholic schools across they world,’ teachers will often contact Catholic communities abroad to see what they can learn.

A Norwegian headteacher, visiting Scotland on professional development, said that she and four colleagues (below) made the journey after hearing about the high quality of Scotland’s Catholic schools.

Helene Hatle said: “We wanted to go to Scotland to visit different schools and listen to how you do things here so that we can learn, so that we can get better Catholic schools too.”

Fellow teacher Elisabeth Thielemann said: “We want to learn about your system, how you work with the teachers, the formation of the teachers and the whole system, from the national level down to the schools.”

The headteachers praised the organised education system in Scottish schools, and its state-funded status.

“[In Norway] it’s not like here,” Geir Nyborg said. “[Our Catholic schools] are private schools, so we are out of the state system. All our students have to apply for our schools. We are funded by the government about 80 per cent and the rest we take in in fees.”

Headteacher Petter Gfessing also spoke of teacher shortages in Norway, praising the work of Glasgow University in its training of Catholic teachers. “Recruiting of Catholic teachers is an issue at our schools,” he said. “We struggle to get Catholic teachers.”

The ‘secularisation process’ in Norway has seen Catholics in the country become a ‘minority,’ the teachers said, but they believe their Catholic Faith is the mutual point of understanding that helps them cooperate with Catholic schools across the world.

“Most of the people in Norway don’t believe and don’t go to Mass,” Ms Hatle explained. “So we are a minority. Practising religion in Norway is not so normal anymore, not so natural.”

Mr Gfessing said: “We Catholics have one thing in common and that’s our belief in Christ and the Mass. That is what brings us all together as a part of a family, even though we’re coming from very many different countries.”

The headteachers praised the ‘structured’ and ‘well-organised’ Catholic education system in Scotland. “It’s impressive, especially the work they have done on ‘This is Our Faith,’—that’s really, really good work,” Mr Gfessing said.

He added that they hope to work with Glasgow University in future to enable better teacher recruitment back home. “We’re also looking into how we can take something from ‘This is Our Faith’ into our schools, see what we can do to develop our religious education and improve it.”

SCES is planning to work with more Catholic schools across the world. Mrs Coupar said SCES is developing ‘leadership pathways’ for teachers and wants them to have ‘an international dimension.’

“I meet twice a year with my European counterparts,” she said. “We’re looking to establish links. I think it shows that Faith-based education is a choice of parents all across the world and Scotland is sector-leading in that by offering free Faith-based education. It’s great to be able to tap into the philosophy of Catholic education, and to see that we’re not just in a little bubble here in Scotland.

“In the same way also we can learn from international schools about the academic side, we can also learn about the spiritual side as well.”

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