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I run a technology company and I’m in the process of setting up two new businesses here. It's a great life and the kids are happy, especially at Sørenget skole. In Botnan we have such a strong local community where neighbours help each other and often pop in for a social coffee. And I never thought I’d own a tractor, but it's every boy's dream! We also have a very active sports club in Botnan. What’s impressive is the amount of energy given to training and developing kids, I’ve genuinely been amazed by it, and the facilities rival those of a larger town.
You don’t always feel you're living in the wealthiest country in the world (per person), especially when you see how hard the few remaining farmers have to work, and how few of their children can afford to return here and take over the farms that are being sold in the area. But that's another topic and one I could also ramble about enthusiastically for some time (trust me!) But it is sad to see the decline in Norway's farming and its ability to produce basic foods. I hope the current madness in the world has brought to light just how valuable this is and people appreciate it more.
Rich nations can afford to ask the best questions, such as - how do we deliver the best educational outcomes for our children? So if the local authority can’t continue to fund schools, then something has gone catastrophically wrong.
Sørenget Skole is doing a great job, as is evident with their rating. Every school has its challenges, but you ask any parent what they think of it and I've no doubt it will be very positive.
So much research exists that supports the basic principle; pupils at smaller schools are happier and do better. It's basic and simple and it's well documented. Unfortunately, educators that understand this aren't the ones making the decisions around school sizes, that’s usually left to someone looking at short-term budget plans.
So looking at this from a purely micro- and macroeconomic standpoint the numbers provided assume the argument given is that Sørenget Skole needs a new building; those who know the school do not agree with this conclusion. The truth is some of the buildings need some basic upgrades; insulation, ventilation - and heating systems, at a far lower cost. The current projection is that if 4 schools close then 20 million NOK might be saved by Namsos kommune, 4.9 million of that is coming from Sørenget Skole (3.4 Million of that again is if and only if they build a new school at Sørenget, which we know is uncessary), not much in the grand scheme of things! At least it's clear what the perceived value of educating our kids is!
I’ve not lived here long enough to know how good Namsos kommune are at financial projections, so I’ll leave that to you to judge, but I can’t see these numbers adding up. Namsos Kommune also owns the buildings at Sørenget, but they don't yet have any plans for them. So the projected 1.5 million NOK saving at Sørenget (taken they close the school and do not build a new one) will likely be reduced as a result of some future expenditure on keeping or taking down the buildings.
And all the extra car journeys parents will be making, the extra hours kids will be in transport (ours will go from 1.5 hours to around 2.5 - 3 hours per day depending on stops). Oh and carbon seems to be a hot topic these days, almost as hot as the price of fuel!
Looking at the wider macroeconomics of this (which doesn't sit anywhere on any projections or any spreadsheet) and the situation is grave... Like our neighbours when they moved back here, Sørenget Skole was a major decision factor, having good local schools is so important for the survival of rural communities. And without them, inner cities schools wouldn’t be able to cope. Schools like Sørenget give to the area. These are basic economic building blocks.
The economics are simple; give people reasons to be here or move here and you get economic stability and growth. Do the opposite and you get the opposite. The more cash spent locally means more opportunities and higher employment, leading to more spending, creating a compound cycle of growth. But the centralisation of services like education has the opposite effect. And as one of my favourite comedians says; ‘is that what you want ‘cause that’s what’ll happen’.
So if Namsos kommune wants to see economic growth, they need to make the region more attractive for people to stay and work, or to return here when they are settling down. Education is critical in that, it's what divides the 'developed' from the ‘developing' nations. To become developed, nations build more schools, closer to residents.
This dangerous desire to do the opposite through ‘the centralisation of everything’ into large towns and cities is also a false economy (and one that most of the sitting political parties are actively against) you take from one hand to feed the other, it's a short term strategy that doesn’t work. It's one where those who don’t embrace centralisation become more isolated and disadvantaged, it's senseless and divisive.
So what’s more important, quality of life or economics? - Of course, it's a balance, but wealthier nations can afford a better quality of life which in turn should lead to greater productivity and better economics.
And actually, the question needs to be - how can we support local communities and deliver the best education?
So, I'm left questioning what we will do if Sørenget Skole closes? We didn’t move to Namsos town we moved to Botnan in Namsos kommune and this is where we want to live. I've spent the last two years building a house here and getting settled... And I've now got a tractor to think about…! If the school closes Trondheim could be a good alternative for us; I don’t want to be a taxi driver…!