Covid-19: Italy’s unvaccinated teachers to return to class as rules ease

Teaching staff who refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed back to work in the new school year, Italy's education ministry has confirmed.

Covid-19: Italy's unvaccinated teachers to return to class as rules ease
Masking requirements and vaccination rules will no longer be in place as Italy begins the new school year. File photo: Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Teachers will be allowed to work in Italy’s schools regardless of their Covid-19 vaccination status from September, according to new guidelines issued by the education ministry.

The memo sent out to schools ahead of the new academic year confirmed that the Covid vaccination requirement for teachers expires on August 31st, along with many other health measures.

READ ALSO: What are Italy’s Covid rules for schools in September?

Since December 2021, teachers who refused the vaccine have been suspended without pay, along with police officers, emergency service workers and many other public sector staff in Italy.

On April 1st, unvaccinated teachers were permitted to return to school premises but were not allowed to teach classes.

The controversial rule is now set to be scrapped altogether in the 2022-23 academic year, meaning Italy’s ‘no vax’ teachers can go back to the classroom.

Masks will no longer be a requirement for students or teachers, and there will be no more distance learning – or ‘didattica a distanza‘ (DAD) in Italian – according to the guidelines.

READ ALSO: Italy approves fourth Covid vaccine doses for over-60s

Antonello Giannelli, president of Italy’s National Association of Principals, told news agency Adnkronos he was “not worried” about the number of unvaccinated teachers, which is “very low, just a few thousand”.

He said a bigger concern was “the millions of students, especially those aged between five and 15, who are not yet vaccinated”.

Italian virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco told newspaper La Repubblica on Monday that “we don’t yet have an exact manual” for managing the pandemic “but at this stage we have to live with it”. 

He said Italy’s anti-vax teachers were able to return to class “because of the decision of the great majority of Italians to get vaccinated”.

The education ministry said may bring back some rules if deemed necessary by health authorities, La Repubblica reported, including a requirement for teachers and students to wear FFP2 masks.

Italy’s schools restart in mid-September, with the exact dates varying by region.

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‘No Meloni’: Why students across Italy are protesting on Friday

Some disruption was expected in central Rome, Milan and other Italian cities on Friday amid student protests against the new government's policies on education.

'No Meloni': Why students across Italy are protesting on Friday

Thousands of Italian students were reportedly taking to the streets on Friday to demand more investment in the country’s schools and universities – something they say is not a priority for the new hard-right government led by Giorgia Meloni.

Italian student unions Unione degli Studenti and Rete degli Studenti organised the day of coordinated demonstrations, which they dubbed ‘No Meloni Day’ in protest at the new prime minister’s stance on education.

Protestors said they were against her government’s focus on “meritocracy” after the education ministry was renamed the ‘Ministry for Education and Merit’.

Critics of the ministry’s new name say it promotes the idea that academic achievement is based solely on effort, and ignores structural injustices that prevent low-income students from progressing in school.

Alice Beccari, Unione degli Studenti communications manager, told Italian media that the group was however not protesting “exclusively” against the current government’s ideology.

“As in past years, we protest against reforms aimed at the privatisation and industrialisation of schools,” she said.

The main protest in Rome was expected to cause some disruption to bus services, as students march from Circo Massimo to the offices of Italy’s education ministry in the Trastevere district.