Italy’s schools close as teachers fight reform

Schools across Italy will close on Tuesday as teachers rally against premier Matteo Renzi’s school reform bill.

Italy's schools close as teachers fight reform
Classroom photo: Shutterstock

The bill, which would see 100,000 substitute teachers given permanent contracts and extra funds designated for teacher development, was approved by the cabinet in March.

But unions argue the reform is “unfair” as many more substitute teachers will be excluded.

Marches will take place in Rome, Aosta, Milan, Bari, Catania, Palermo and Cagliari. Students are also expected to join the rallies.

The so-called Good School bill, which still needs to go before parliament, is also designed togive schools greater autonomy by making it the school head's job to handpick teachers, and bring greater transparency to the system, with curriculum vitae and school financial records made public online.

Teachers would also be given a €500 bonus each year to be spent on cultural activities, such as tickets to a concert.

Permanent contacts will be rolled out for 100,000 substitute teachers by September 2015 if the bill goes through, with others following for 23,000 nursery school teachers a year later.

Education Minister Stefania Giannini was quoted by Ansa on Monday as saying that she was "frankly perplexed" by the reasons for the strike.

She added that the reasons given by those protesting against the reform "are absolutely foreign to what we want to do with the Good School, which is(fostering) scholastic autonomy and strengthening the education on offer".

The last strike was held on April 24th, after which protesters vowed to continue their fight until the bill is dropped. The next strike is due to take place on May 12th.

Susanna Camusso, leader of trade union CGIL, has said the reform "favors the richest and divides the precarious."

In November last year the European Court of Justice ordered Italy to regularize substitute teachers who had worked for over 36 months on precarious, short-term contracts. Italian media at the time put the number concerned at 250,000.

Renzi, who has made the school reform one of the cornerstones of his mandate, said pre-school children would get English lessons and history of art and music would return to the curriculum.

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‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

Ranked: Italy’s best universities and how they compare worldwide

“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.