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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisational variations and alternative structures in primary education


5.Primary education

5.4Organisational variations and alternative structures in primary education

Last update: 14 February 2024

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

However, specific measures guarantee compulsory education and, in general, the right to study to pupils who live in small islands and in the mountains and to pupils who are not able to attend school because hospitalised or at home for health reasons.

Private education and home education are described in the relevant articles.

Education in small islands and in the mountains

The Italian territory has many areas of the country, in particular small islands, and mountain areas, which suffer from a geographical disadvantage. Schools in these areas either are organised in mixed-age classes, or they have 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 project called ‘Small Schools’ (Piccole Scuole), which aim is to provide schools in disadvantaged areas with didactic tools and support in order to keep 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 less than 125 pupils enrolled. In 2020/2021, primary small schools were 7 435 (out of a total of 11 627 small preprimary, primary and lower secondary schools), with a total of 529 757 pupils enrolled. Primary small schools represent approx. the 50% of all primary schools in the country. Primary small schools with mixed-age classes were 1 165 (out of total 1 325 primary and lower secondary small schools) and represent the 15.7% of all primary small schools (source: visited in February 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 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 at the child’s school 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 teachers at school who provide all the useful elements of evaluation. The same applies in case of hospitalization during the final examinations.

Pupils hospitalised at home, who are unable to attend school for more than 30 days (even not consecutive) on account of health problems, can receive home tuition (Istruzione Domiciliare) 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 consider both the pupil’s educational and care needs. The assessment procedures are the same of hospitalized pupils.

In 2019, the then Ministry of education, university and research launched the ‘National portal for hospital and home tuition' (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: families of children admitted to hospital and at home, 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 2022/2023, education in hospital has involved 61 293 students, 976 teachers in hospital and 264 hospital classes. The hours of home tuition have been 119 198 (source: Portale nazionale per la scuola in ospedale e l’istruzione domiciliare, last visited in February 2024). 



Contents revised: February 2024