Country information for Italy - Legislation and policy
The Constitution states that the Italian Republic guarantees school for all (Article 34) and requires that the mandatory duty of solidarity be fulfilled (Article 2). Moreover, it states that it is the ‘duty of the Republic to remove any obstacles constraining the freedom and equality of citizens in order to ensure the full development of the human person’ (Article 3).
Italy’s education system is organised according to the principles of subsidiarity and school autonomy. The State and the regions share legislative competence. Moreover, regions should comply with the provisions of national legislation. Schools are autonomous with regard to didactic, organisational and research activities.
The Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR) guarantees the uniformity of national educational provision. It does this in a number of ways, for example, setting:
- general educational goals;
- specific learning goals according to pupils’ skills;
- the minimum national curriculum;
- standards related to the quality of educational services;
- general criteria for pupil assessment and the organisation of adult education.
Depending on their autonomy, schools can be flexible in adapting teaching time, curricula and didactics to pupils’ specific learning needs. They can also provide extra-curricular education and activities according to their cultural, social and economic context, as well as through networks and agreements with other schools, universities, agencies, etc.
Inclusive education is the sector where national legislation and policies have been mostly focusing their efforts. Italy is, so far, the only European country which has reached 99.6% inclusion of learners with disabilities in mainstream education. In fact, by law there are no special schools or classes in the Italian school system. Some 0.4% of pupils with disabilities attend rehabilitation centres financed by the local health services. Teachers are provided by the MIUR. (Source: CPRA – Country report, p. 12)
Pupils with disabilities
Inclusion for pupils with disabilities began with Law 118/1971, which granted all children the right to be educated in common classes, and Law 517/1977, which abolished special schools.
Law 104/1992 is the main framework for all disability issues. It:
- guarantees specific rights for people with disabilities and their families;
- provides assistance;
- stipulates full integration and the adoption of measures for prevention and functional recovery;
- ensures social, economic and legal protection.
Law 328/2000 defines the ‘integrated system of interventions and social services’. Law 53/2003 defines the essential levels of provision in education and training.
The ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities took place in 2009 by Law number 18 of 3. Subsequently, in the same year, the MIUR published the ‘Guidelines for the integration of pupils with disability at school’. These guidelines aimed to increase the quality of educational interventions for pupils with physical, intellectual and sensory impairment.
Decree 66/2017 focuses on the school environment and enhances individual education plans (IEP) for pupils, aimed at identifying barriers and facilitators in school life.
Adapting school buildings and equipment
Under Law 118/1971, municipalities are responsible for making school buildings accessible for everyone, according to national standards.
Moreover, Law 104/1992 provides for the removal of barriers (architectural or sensorial) and the introduction of appropriate aids and tools to support pupils with disabilities in education and training. For example, technical and didactic equipment should be adapted to pupils’ needs, according to their functional or sensorial impairments. Furthermore, schools can establish agreements with centres specialised in pedagogical consultation and production or adaptation of specific didactic materials.
Classes with disabled pupils usually contain a maximum of 20 pupils, provided that the inclusion process is supported by defined strategies and methods adopted by class teachers together with support teachers and school staff. Support teachers are part of the team of regular teachers and participate in all the activities, planning and assessment. Support teachers also facilitate inclusion.
Law Stanca n. 4/2004 details the accessibility of ICT in schools.
Local authorities must provide free transport for people with disabilities, such as daily transport to schools and to education and health centres.
An individual life project
According to Article 14 of Law 328/2000, parents, local health services and social services agree upon an individualised life project for their children. This aims for full integration ‘within the family and social life’.
Permission for assistance
Parents of children with identified disabilities, including adopted children, can take three years of work leave or two hours a day of special permission until the child is three years old. After the child has turned three, parents have three days off each month for assistance. Parents also have the right to choose a workplace closer to home and they cannot be moved to another workplace without their agreement.
Information, education and participation
Families should receive information about their children’s needs from teachers and principals. Parents and schools work together to create and implement an individual education plan according to the child’s needs. Parents participate in the school’s Work Group for Inclusion (GLI) and are also represented in the Regional Inter-Institutional Work Group (GLIR).
Attendance and education
Children have the right to attend schools that are equipped for any special need and to use technologies, subsidies and specific materials. Pupils with disabilities have the right to free transport.
Programmes and school life
Pupils with disabilities have the right to attend mainstream classes with appropriate teaching support. They have the right to full participation in school life, including summer camps, study visits (accompanied by special staff), etc. Depending on their disability, pupils may have assistants provided by local authorities. Pupils have the right to:
- an individual education plan (drafted by family and schools);
- a social project (drafted by social assistants and experts from the local health board);
- a rehabilitation programme tailored to their individual needs;
- vocational guidance.
Pupils with specific learning disorders
Law 170/2010 recognises dyslexia, dysgraphia, dysorthographia and dyscalculia as specific learning disorders (SLDs). Subsequent guidelines (2011) specify educational and didactic measures to support the teaching and learning processes. Schools are responsible for early detection.
The competent offices of the national health system diagnose SLDs and the pupil’s family submits the relevant documentation to the school. Schools, including pre-primary schools, should intervene promptly in suspected cases of SLD, notifying the pupil’s family.
In the case of SLDs, schools should put in place the pedagogic and didactic measures necessary to guarantee their educational goals. Teachers can use individual education plans and compensatory tools to implement personalised educational processes.
Other special educational needs
The Ministerial Directive of 27 December 2012, on ‘Measures for pupils with special needs and local organisations for school inclusion’ cites all the initiatives taken for pupils with different types of special needs: pupils with assessed disabilities, specific developmental disorders or socio-economic, linguistic and cultural disadvantages. In these cases, schools should put in place the pedagogic and didactic measures necessary to guarantee their educational goals, drafting an individual education plan if necessary.
The process of inclusion for foreign pupils consists of two aspects: ‘integration’ and ‘inter‑culture’. Specific guidelines concerning the inclusion of migrant pupils (2014) provide a regulatory framework, as well as suggestions concerning school organisation and teaching in order to increase the quality of education.
Framework Law 328/2000 for the creation of an integrated system of social services and social intervention also includes provisions for migrants.
The Good School reform
The Italian government adopted the Good School (La Buona Scuola) reform of the national education and training system in July 2015. This reform set out changes in education and training provision management and in the curricula.
Law 107/2015 (the Good School Reform Act) affirms the school’s central role in society. It aims to raise all learners’ levels of education and skills, based on individual learning times and styles. This will counteract inequalities, prevent school drop-out and create open schools as permanent labs for research, experimentation, educational innovation, participation and education for active citizenship. It will also guarantee the lifelong right to study, equal opportunities and achievement.
Law 107/2015 enabled eight legislative decrees. Some of these directly address learners’ requests by improving initial and in-service teacher training on inclusive education and by better co-ordinating all actors and resources involved in learners’ care. The aim is to guarantee good education for all and raise all learners’ achievements, including from a lifelong perspective (see Legislative Decree no. 66/2017).
Decree 66 puts the focus on the school environment and enhances individual education plans for pupils, aiming to identify barriers and facilitators in school life. Parents submit information about their children so schools can provide all necessary support. In addition, families are eligible for other help measures, including financial support, according to the national health plan.
Secondary regulation is being adopted:
- to define indicators for the evaluation of school inclusiveness;
- to draft International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF)-based functioning profiles, individual education plans and ‘life plans’;
- to empower inclusion groups at all territorial levels;
- to improve initial training in inclusive education for curricular and support teachers;
- to set a common professional profile for assistants.
A new Individualised Education Plan
Decree no. 182 of 29 December 2020 defines support measures for pupils with disabilities. It came into force after a wide consultation with teachers, schools and associations. Annexed to the Decree are:
- National Guidelines;
- new National Individualised Education Plan (IEP) templates (pre-primary, primary, lower-secondary, upper-secondary education);
- a ‘Functional capacity gap’ assessment tool;
- a professional needs assessment tool.
The tools and the National Guidelines enable self-reflection on inclusive practices and help to implement the principle of inclusive education in real school life.
The new IEP templates follow the bio-psycho-social approach, which moves away from the idea that disability equals disease. The core principle is the educational co‑responsibility of the whole learning community. Educational-didactic goals, strategies, methods and tools to create an inclusive learning environment are identified by observing learners and their learning environments, following the priority axes in educational planning:
- Socialisation and interaction dimension
- Communication and language dimension
- Autonomy and orientation dimension
- Cognitive, Neuropsychological and learning dimension.
The IEPs describe the general organisation of learner inclusion and any required support measures. These measures could include the need for specialist teachers, assistants for autonomy and/or communication and other professionals (number of hours required), personal hygiene needs, school transportation services, teaching methodologies and strategies, and evaluation criteria.
Article 21 of Decree no. 182 foresees a gradual implementation of the IEPs, which will be revised following experimentation by schools in the current school year (2020/2021). Specific training and mentoring activities will also take place.
Following the experimentation, a digital IEP will be available to schools which is compatible with the National school register.
A specific web area on the Ministry website contains further information and relevant materials (in Italian).
Last updated 04/05/2021