The Italian Constitution establishes that the education system is a State system. Private and public subjects have the right to establish independent schools. Private and public independent institutions can request the parity to State schools upon certain conditions established by the State law (art.33).
Independent schools are not obliged to apply for parity. However, law of 3 February 2006, no. 27 establishes that there are only two types of independent schools: the schools with parity (paritarie), which applied and obtained the status equal to State schools and the independent schools without parity, i.e. merely independent schools.
Independent schools with parity (paritarie)
Independent schools, both public and private, which obtain the parity to State schools are called scuole paritarie.
Law 62/2000 establishes the requirements to apply for parity, as well as the rights and duties of independent schools to maintain their parity.
In particular, independent schools must guarantee:
- an educational project coherent with the principles of the Constitution and a three-year educational offer plan (Piano triennale dell’offerta formativa - PTOF) drawn up in accordance with current regulations;
- the certification of the management title and the transparency and publicity of balance;
- the availability of premises, furniture and teaching equipment peculiar to the type of school as required by the current regulations;
- the presence of collegiate bodies that guarantee the democratic participation;
- school enrolment for all students, provided that they hold a valid qualification;
- the implementation of the current regulation on inclusion;
- the organisation of complete courses that cover all grades of an educational level;
- qualified teaching staff;
- contracts for management and teaching staff compliant with the collective national labour contract.
Schools submit their request to the relevant Regional School Office that verifies the respect of the requirements and can accept or refuse the application, as well as, following recurrent controls, withdrawal the recognition of parity.
Independent schools with parity are free to choose their own cultural orientation and educational/teaching approach.
Moreover, they deliver the same certificates and qualifications of State schools. Independent schools with parity do not receive direct financing from the State. Indirect financing comes from grants to pupils and tax relief for families; however, a direct form of financing is maintained for primary and pre-primary schools. In particular, for pre-primary schools it is maintained because non-State (either private or public) pre-primary schools cover almost the 40% of the requests. Additional regional funds are provided directly to schools or to the students’ families.
Independent schools without parity
Merely independent schools, i.e. independent schools that have not applied and/or have not obtained parity, carry out an organised teaching activity and must comply with the following conditions:
- to have an educational project compliant with the principles of the Constitution and of the education system and aimed at the learning objectives both general and specific for each qualification;
- the availability of premises, furniture and equipment in compliance with regulations on hygiene and safety, based on the number of pupils;
- qualified teaching staff and a co-ordinator for the teaching and educational activities, as well as administrative and technical staff;
- pupils’ age not lower than the age of the pupils attending State schools for obtaining the same qualification.
Merely independent schools cannot release certificates and qualifications recognised within the education system. They cannot have the same name of other State schools or schools with parity and their denomination must mention their status of schools without parity. They are included in a specific list kept by each Regional School Office.
Pupils attending independent schools during compulsory education must take the aptitude examination if they are willing to return to a mainstream school and on completion of primary school, in order to enrol to the first year of lower secondary education. Examinations are held at primary schools, both State schools and schools with parity.
To access the final examination at the end of the first cycle of education pupils in independent schools must turn 13 within the 31 December of the relevant school year and have passed the examination at the end of primary education. These pupils must also sit for the national standardised testing, as do pupils in mainstream schools (D.lgs. 62/2017).