History of the Helsinki Normal Lyceum

A brief history of Norssi

The Helsinki Normal Lyceum was initially established in autumn 1867, when Finnish-language classes were introduced at the Swedish normal lyceum of Helsinki. This Finnish-language department was shut down in 1871 due to the language policy, but it continued in the same form without a pause as the privately owned Helsingin Suomalainen Alkeisopisto. The school moved to a newly completed school building at Ratakatu 2 (now Ratakatu 6 A) in autumn 1878.

In 1873, a Finnish normal lyceum was set up in Hämeenlinna, which became a regular lyceum in 1887. At the same time, Helsingin Suomalainen Alkeisopisto became state owned, and it was turned into a teacher training school entitled Helsinki Suomalainen Normaalilysee.

The school changed its name three more times before acquiring its current name: to Helsingin Suomalainen Normaalilyseo in 1915, to Helsingin Normaalilyseo in 1950 and to Helsingin I normaalikoulu in 1974. At the decision of the rector of the University of Helsinki, the name was restored to Helsingin normaalilyseo, the Helsinki Normal Lyceum, on 1 January 1995.

The Helsinki Normal Lyceum operated at Ratakatu 2 from 1878 to 1905, when it moved to a newly completed building at Ratakatu 4 (now Ratakatu 6B).

 “The school’s rector, science teacher and physical education teacher made the drawings. They were then sent to the Imperial Finnish Senate, along with the 450,000-mark cost estimate, in a letter dated 22 May 1903. As was customary at the time, it took a very long time for the drawings to be approved: it was not until 20 January 1904 that the National Board of Public Buildings received the order to initiate the building project. At the same time, the Board was informed that the grant was increased to 465,000 marks because of the rise of unsettled and restless times. (--) A building contract for this sum was signed on 26 February 1904. Yrjö Sadenius was chosen as the head architect and Jac. Ahrenberg as the supervising architect. With architect Sadenius’ well-informed and energetic lead, the project progressed with few difficulties, and the building gained a roof over its head in the autumn of the same year.”

- Reports of the National Board of Public Building 1904–1907, on the new building of Suomalainen normaalilyseo

The Ratakatu building underwent considerable extensions in 1926 and 1953. In 1979–1980, the historically valuable school building was renovated, and the school operated at Kansakoulukatu 3. When the school moved back to its original facilities, teaching was organised into subject-based classes.

In 2004–2008, the Helsinki Normal Lyceum building was renovated again, and the building at Ratakatu 6A, previously housing the Department of Teacher Education, was incorporated into the main building. The old middle section, built to connect the two buildings in 1950s, was torn down, and a new one was built in its place. The new middle section boasts a grand spiral staircase between the second and third floor, a second gym and two computer labs.

During the renovation, part of the school’s teaching was offered at Bulevardi 18, which previously housed the Open University.

In 2008, Norssi welcomed the European School of Helsinki at Ratakatu 6A, where it stayed until it gained its own facilities at Bulevardi 18 in December 2009. From autumn 2011 to spring 2022, Ratakatu 6A also housed the French school Jules Verne.

In the fall of 2019, students from the first grade of elementary school also arrived at the school, and from the academic year 2019-2020, the elementary school expanded and will expand every year with a new elementary school grade, eventually becoming a unified school containing grades 1-9.

Text: Ville Laustela and Norssi’s archives


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