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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures


6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.13Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures

Last update: 29 January 2024

There are not organisational variations or alternative structures that offer secondary education in the public sector.

However, specific measures guarantee compulsory education and, in general, the right to study to students who are experiencing particular situations, such as students living in small islands and in the mountains, students who are not able to attend school because hospitalised or at home for health reasons, or students held in detention centres.

Education in small islands and in rural areas

The Italian territory has many areas of the country, in particular small islands and mountain areas, which suffer of a geographical disadvantage. Schools in these areas, are usually organised in mixed-age classes or they are schools that with very few students enrolled. In these educational contexts, schools are encouraged to use digital technologies for didactic purposes (e.g. on-line lessons) and to create networks among schools to overcome the risk of isolation and the lack of confrontation. Anyhow, these schools must comply with the central regulations as for the curriculum, assessment procedures and organisation, with the exemption of those aspects linked to their own specific nature.

The National institute for the documentation, innovation and research in education (Istituto nazionale di documentazione, innovazione e ricerca educativa, Indire) is carrying out a research projects called ‘Small Schools’ (Piccole Scuole), which aim is to provide schools in disadvantaged areas with didactic tools and support in order of keeping these schools operative because of their important educational role and to tackle school leaving and depopulation of the territories.  According to the research of Indire, primary small schools are those with up to 125 pupils enrolled. In 2020/2021, primary small schools with few students were 7 435 (out of total 9 123 primary and lower secondary small schools) and 1 165 primary small schools with mixed-age classes (out of total 1 325 primary and lower secondary small schools). The total of students involved for both levels of education was approx. 602 871 in schools with few enrolments  (source: visited in January 2024).

Education for pupils admitted to hospital or assisted at home

Pupils hospitalised or assisted at home for long stays, are guaranteed the right to complete compulsory education and, more in general to exercise of their right to study as well as to maintain the contact with their own school life.

Major hospitals and paediatric wards offer hospital classes where properly trained teachers provide children with an educational offer equal to mainstream lessons. This type of provision is called ‘School in hospital’ (Scuola in Ospedale). Teachers in the hospital classes work closely with the teachers of the child’s school class on the periodic and final assessment. If the length of the hospitalization is longer than the time spent in class, the pupil’s assessment is carried out directly by the hospital teachers, always in collaboration with the school teachers who provide all the useful elements of evaluation. The same applies in case of hospitalization during the final examinations.

Pupils who are admitted at home and are unable to attend school for more than 30 days (even not consecutive) on account of health problems, can receive home education (Istruzione Domiciliare) and be taught by one or two teachers of the school they attend. To access this service, parents must submit a duly documented request to the child’s school. The school then draws up a specific teaching plan to be approved by the competent Regional School Office. In general, the weekly teaching time is approximately 4-5 hours at primary level and 6-7 hours at secondary level. However, the teaching time and the teaching plan take into account the pupil’s both educational and care needs. The same assessment procedures of hospitalized pupils apply to pupils educated at home for health reasons.

In 2019, the Ministry of education, university and research launched the ‘National portal for hospital and home education’ (Portale nazionale per la scuola in ospedale e l’istruzione domiciliare). The portal is the reference tool for providing information to all stakeholders involved in this service. In particular to families of children admitted to hospital and at home, as well as to teachers who need to know good practices and to be kept updated and in contact with the pupils’ schools. Finally, it allows the Ministry to monitor data and resources.
In school year 2018/2019, education in hospital has involved 61 516 students, 870 teachers in hospital and 214 hospital classes. The hours of home tuition have been 66 021 (Source: Portale nazionale per la scuola in ospedale e l’istruzione domiciliare, visited on 17 September 2020).

Education in detention centres

Detention centres for minors welcome youngsters aged between 14 and 21 years. At 21, young inmates are transferred to detention centres for adults; however, up to 25 years of age they still refer to the minors’ penal offices.

Minors in compulsory school age (up to 16 years) must attend school courses. All detention centres for minors have courses of primary and secondary school, as well as literacy courses for foreigners. At 16 years of age inmates choose whether to continue their studies or take part in working activities and vocational courses. In fact, the Regulation on the penitentiary system (DPR 230/2000) guarantees to minors and to adults kept in detention centres, equal educational opportunities.

Courses in detention centres for minors are mainly held by the teachers of the Provincial centres for adult education (Centri provinciali per l’istruzione degli adulti, CPIA). The network of CPIA and the Department of the Ministry of justice responsible for minors sign agreements for the activation of courses. School programmes must take into consideration the context where education takes place, the type of users and also the flexibility of times for detention.

CPIAs and upper secondary schools can also widen their educational offer through agreements with the local authorities and other public or private subjects such as, for example, the training agencies accredited by the Regions for the vocational education and training courses.

At present, the steering document that regulates education and training in detention centres is the Agreement that the Ministry of justice and the Ministry of education, university and research have signed in 2016. According to this Agreement, the Ministry must guarantee to minors and adults the right to education and training to foster educational success and to tackle disadvantages and discriminations. The Ministry of justice enhances education for the purposes of critical review of the crime, reintegration into social life and respect for the fundamental values of civil coexistence.