Country information for Italy - Assessment within inclusive education systems

Procedure for identifying disability

According to the definition set out in Law 104/1992, pupils with disabilities are those with physical, intellectual or sensory impairments, whether stable or progressive, causing learning and working difficulties that can produce social detriment and alienation.

As regards identification, the local health authorities carry out specific assessments at the parents’ request, in compliance with Law 104/1992. The outcome of each assessment is documented through papers specifying the pathology, according to the World Health Organization’s international classification. In the case of a particularly severe disability, the number of support teaching hours may be higher than the standard amount provided for by law. The papers are given to the parents who, in turn, deliver them to the school. These assessment papers are essential for starting the administrative procedures for school integration (Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers 185/2006).

Procedure for identifying specific learning disorders

Law 170/2010 recognises dyslexia, dysgraphia, dysorthographia and dyscalculia as specific learning disorders (SLDs). Although they do not include sensory or neurologic deficits, these may seriously limit the pupil’s daily activities.

According to the definition set out in Law 170/2010, dyslexia is an SLD deriving from difficulties in learning to read, in particular in understanding symbols and in reading fluently and correctly. Dysgraphia is an SLD deriving from difficulties in writing, particularly in reproducing graphic symbols. Dysorthographia is an SLD deriving from difficulties in writing, associated with difficulties in linguistic decoding processes. Dyscalculia is an SLD deriving from difficulties in making calculations and formulating numbers.

According to the Inter-Ministerial Ministry of Education, Universities and Research and Ministry of Health Decree (17/4/2013) concerning early detection in school, SLDs should be detected from the second year of primary education. In case of a suspected SLD, schools should intervene promptly, notifying the pupil’s family in order to proceed with further detection.

The competent offices of the national health system diagnose SLDs and the pupil’s family submits the relevant documentation to the school.

Other specific developmental disorders

The Ministerial Directive of 27 December 2012 also considers other specific developmental disorders (which are not included in Law 104 and Law 170). These include:

  • deficits in language;
  • non-verbal abilities and motor co-ordination;
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder;
  • other situations that may seriously limit the pupil’s daily activities, such as borderline intellectual functioning or mild autistic spectrum disorder without comorbidity.

The competent offices of the national health system diagnose specific developmental disorders and the pupil’s family submits the relevant documentation to the school.

Socio-economic, linguistic and cultural disadvantage

Local authorities provide social services, together with non-governmental organisations or associations in the field. Schools and social care services collaborate to identify and manage situations of socio-economic disadvantage and to prevent problems in developmental age. For example, the role of teachers is crucial to identify suspected situations of neglect, abuse or violence. In these cases, the school (through the principal) should invite the family to contact social services. If the family fails to do so, the school can make a referral to the social care service.

Linguistic disadvantage is mostly related to recent migration. During the initial period of integration, the school assesses the foreign learner’s language knowledge. It then organises Italian classes based on their level.

School-based assessment

School have a crucial role in early special educational needs detection; systematic observations help to detect suspected cases. Links to the family and collaboration between the school and parents are very important.

The law provides for a process which starts with a diagnostic approach. Family and physicians request an observation of the pupil at a local centre for mental health protection in developmental age (Tsmree centres). Early diagnosis is crucial because schools can ‘translate’ the medical approach into an educational approach, shaping an educational path that will turn into a vertical curriculum from early childhood education, through to primary school and on to lower- and upper-secondary school (Source: CPRA – Country report, p. 24).

Assessment of pupils with disabilities focuses on their behaviour and on disciplines and activities included in their individual education plan, taking into account their progress rather than results. The first cycle leaving exam can be made up of differentiated tests and may allow the use of specific didactic tools.

The upper-secondary education leaving exam can also be carried out with the help of special didactic tools. Pupils who followed a differentiated study plan and who have not obtained the final qualification receive a document stating:

  • the course of study, subjects and length of time;
  • the competences acquired;
  • the relevant credits obtained in the final exam.

Recurrent and final assessment of learners with SLD should be consistent with the pedagogic and didactic measures adopted. In particular, schools should adopt adequate assessment measures to allow the learner to effectively demonstrate the level attained. This can be done by concentrating on the contents rather than on how they are expressed and by bringing out the learner’s way to express the competences acquired. Examples include using oral tests to assess foreign languages, using compensatory didactic tools or exempting learners from specific activities, if suitable. In case of serious disability associated with other diseases, the pupil – upon parents’ request and acceptance of the class council – can be exempted from studying foreign languages and follow a differentiated study plan.

Last updated 29/01/2021


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