"Litt vanskelig at alle skal med!"
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- NIBR notat 
As from August 2010, an amendment to the Education Act and Private Schools Act obligates all school owners (municipal and private) to offer free homework assistance to all pupils in years 1 to 4 in primary school. The research institutes NOVA (Norwegian Social Research) and NIFU (Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education) have been commissioned to evaluate the implementation of the new universal homework assistance scheme. The evaluation project is led by NOVA. The Directorate of Education wanted to know whether the homework assistance scheme works according to intentions. The purpose of the evaluation is to assess: How homework assistance is designed by the schools Whether the scheme has the intended effects The quality of planning and implementation of homework assistance Whether parents are satisfied with the quality of the scheme and its effects on their own involvement in their children’s school work Effects on learning outcome The evaluation was begun in February 2011 and will be finalised in May 2013. This is the first of two reports from the evaluation, and it presents two qualitative studies: a document study and a case study. The first of these consists of a document analysis of planning and information about the new scheme in central government and in a sample of 19 municipalities, as well as of documents related to the local implementation of the scheme in these 19 municipalities. The second is a case study of homework assistance as it has been carried out in practice in four sampled schools. The present report highlights the following issues: What is the purpose of the homework assistance scheme, as expressed at the levels of central government, municipalities and schools? How is the scheme implemented, from the level of central government through the municipal level to each individual school? How is the scheme adapted and modified from plan to practice, and which factors are especially important for such adjustments and changes? What does homework assistance imply in practice at school level, and what are the views of teachers, homework helpers and parents with regard to the new scheme at their school? According to the regulations, the new scheme should: Provide support for student learning; Give the students a sense of mastering; Give the students a good framework for independent work; Contribute to the levelling of social inequalities in education. The first three objectives are directed at the individual student and the benefits he or she should have from participation in the scheme. The fourth and final objective is of an entirely different character, and reflects a more visionary "policy of good intentions" (Vike, 2004, our translation). This is a collective, long-term objective, and in this sense it is more general than the first three objectives. At the same time, it is implicitly assumed that fulfilling the first three will result in a fulfilment of the fourth. Our evaluation so far does not support this assumption. Rather, it indicates that there is an inherent tension between the objectives; In practice this is perceived as a conflict between the three individual objectives on the one hand, and the objective of social equality on the other. Municipalities and schools have gone to great lengths to follow the central government guidelines for the new scheme. Almost all municipalities included in the document study prepared the introduction of universal homework assistance in line with the measurable requirements. However, school transport appears to express the limit to what (some of) the local authorities see themselves as able to provide in order to meet the government target of more and better learning for all. The challenge for local authorities is reinforced by the fact that homework on the one hand does not trigger the same rights as primary education, and on the other that the scheme has a target group and aims that differ from after-school programmes. These are issues beyond the responsibility of local authorities. In several of the municipal documents they are perceived as almost insoluble dilemmas. The legal status of homework assistance also met with strong criticism in the responses from non-municipal organisations. This criticism was expressed through objections to the lack of assistance to students with special needs, lack of requirements for educational competence of homework helpers and lack of coverage of transportation costs. There were numerous and at times highly critical responses to the proposed legal changes from both local authorities and other consultative bodies. These comments did not result in any significant changes in the proposed legislative texts. In order to have a scheme ready at the start of the new school year, municipalities had to use the initial consultation proposals as the basis for their planning. Since changes in the proposals proved to be minimal, a potentially critical situation was avoided in which local authorities and schools might have been stranded with an invalid homework assistance scheme. On the other hand, the scheme would probably have benefited from more thorough discussions of both principal and practical implications. This is especially true with regard to discussions at school level about the nature of homework assistance. There has been very little time for such discussions. Furthermore, a closer review of previous evaluations of relevant pilot projects would have provided a better legal and economic framework for the scheme. By virtue of its divergent objectives, there is a tension in the new homework assistance scheme between «embracing all students» and «contributing to social equality». It is assumed that the first will lead to the second, without any guidelines in the central government documents as to how this should be achieved. The tension is well illustrated by two quotations from our material. One of the mothers we interviewed said: "It's sort of nice that everyone is included"; when faced with having to carry this vision into practice, a vice-principal sighed, "It's a bit difficult when everyone is included". On the ideological level, the universalisation of welfare state services is the basis for social equality. In practice, if all students are to participate in and benefit by the homework assistance scheme, children whose school achievements are already well beyond those of their peers will move ever further ahead. The economic and legal limitations of the new scheme imply a scarcity of highly qualified homework helpers. This means that children who need more help than others will not get it, so that they will lag further and further behind. In this scenario, the new homework assistance scheme will lead to growing differences between pupils. The homework assistance scheme is not, however, without positive effects. The scheme helps parents - especially mothers - and children in the time bind of everyday life. In many families, the scheme means that the children’s homework is regularly done, and done well. At best, the scheme enables schoolchildren to do more and better work. This can result in increased self-esteem and in a sense of schoolwork mastering, and be a positive contribution to learning and wanting to learn more.NOVA og NIFU evaluerer tilbudet om leksehjelp 1.-4. trinn, som ble innført fra høsten 2010 i alle landets grunnskoler. Det overordnede formålet med evalueringen er å finne ut hvordan leksehjelpen utformes på skolene, og om tilbudet fungerer etter hensikten. I denne første av to rapporter fra evalueringen presenterer vi våre funn fra to kvalitative delstudier. Det første av disse er en dokumentanalyse av planlegging av og informasjon om tiltaket i staten og i et utvalg på 19 kommuner, og av lokal implementering av ordningen i de 19 kommunene. Andre delstudie retter søkelyset mot leksehjelpen slik den er implementert og utføres i praksis i et utvalg på fire skoler, med datamateriale fra feltarbeid på leksehjelpen i hver skole, og fra intervjuer utført i tilknytning til hver av de fire skolene.