The following list of questions is designed to help you choose an appropriate private school in Italy:
- Does the school have a good reputation? How long has it been established? If it’s an international school, does it belong to a recognised association?
- Does the school have a good academic record? For example, what percentage of pupils obtain good examination passes or go on to university? All schools should provide exam pass rate statistics.
- How large are the classes and what is the student:teacher ratio? Does the stated class size tally with the number of desks in the classrooms?
- What are the classrooms like – for example, their size, space, cleanliness, lighting, furniture and furnishings? Are there signs of creative teaching, e.g. wall charts, maps, posters and students’ work on display?
- What are the qualification requirements for teachers? What nationality are the majority of teachers? Ask for a list of the teaching staff and their qualifications.
- What is the teacher turnover? A high teacher turnover is a bad sign and usually suggests underpaid teachers and poor working conditions.
- What extras must you pay for – for example, art supplies, sports equipment, outings, clothing, health and accident insurance, meals, private bus transport, text books and stationery? Some schools charge parents for every little thing.
- Which countries do most students come from?
- Is religion an important consideration in your choice of school?
- Are special English classes provided for children whose English doesn’t meet the required standard?
- What standard and type of accommodation is provided in a boarding school?
- What is the quality and variety of food provided? What is the dining room like? Does the school have a dietician?
- What languages does the school teach as obligatory or optional subjects?
- What is the student turnover?
- What are the school terms and holiday periods? Private school holidays are usually longer than those of state schools, e.g. four weeks at Easter and Christmas and ten weeks in the summer, and often don’t coincide with state school holiday periods.
- What are the school hours?
- What are the withdrawal conditions, should you need or wish to remove your child? A term’s notice is usual.
- What does the curriculum include? What examinations are set? Are examinations recognised both in Italy and internationally? Do they fit in with your education plans? Ask to see a typical pupil timetable to check the ratio of academic to non-academic subjects. Check the number of free study periods and whether they’re supervised.
- What sports instruction and facilities are provided? Where are the sports facilities located?
- What facilities are provided for art and science subjects, e.g. arts and crafts, music, computer studies, biology, science, hobbies, drama, cookery and photography? Ask to see the classrooms, facilities, equipment and students’ projects.
- What sort of outings and holidays does the school organise?
- What reports are provided for parents and how often?
- What medical facilities does the school provide, e.g. infirmary, resident doctor or nurse? Is medical and accident insurance included in the fees?
- What punishments are applied and for what offences?
- Last but not least (unless someone else is paying), what are the fees?
Before making a choice, it’s important to visit the schools on your shortlist during term time and talk to teachers, students and, if possible, former students and their parents. Where possible, check the answers to the above questions in person and don’t rely on a school’s prospectus to provide the information. If you’re unhappy with the answers you get, look elsewhere.
Having made your choice, keep a check on your child’s progress and listen to his complaints. Compare notes with other parents. If something doesn’t seem right, try to establish whether a complaint is founded or not and, if it is, take action to have the problem resolved. Don’t forget that you or your employer are paying a lot of money for your child’s education and you should demand value.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Italy. Click here to get a copy now.