SCHOOLS IN ITALY IN COVID19 TIME.
Covid19 in Italy shocked Italian citizens and, together with them, teaching, teachers and Principals.
In the last ten days of February, schools were closed only in five regions of northern Italy. The hope of the experts was to stop the infections and keep them under control where they were born. Unfortunately, however, along with the closure of schools, traffic bans for people between one region and another have not been issued and the virus has gradually moved to all regions of Italy.
From 3rd March all schools in Italy have been closed. Along with this closure, there was a 15-day period with partial bans on population movement in cities and shops. Only a few days ago the prohibitions have become more strict
How Italian schools and school leaders cope with the situation
From the didactic and technical point of view most of the schools were ready to face the distance teaching and we leaders have easily coordinated the digital animators and the teachers. Distance learning started immediately. For what concerns the management aspects of administrative and non-teaching staff, initially we, as managers, were disoriented. For some legal aspects (for example the total closure of school premises, also sending the administrative staff home) the principals in Italy do not have autonomous powers.
Unfortunately, the government indications were not immediately followed by specific notes from our Ministry. Fortunately, the ANP union, which is majority (and therefore guides most of the Italian managers) on the one hand gave suggestions to the managers on the new reorganization in smart working, on the other hand it pressed and supported the Ministry to provide us with specific and timely permits to derogate from existing laws.
In the whole national territory, thanks to the synergistic action of the Ministry and the majority union, we do not have many organizational differences in schools and in the solutions adopted by managers.
Children from parents who work in health care or other essential professions
The preliminary statement is that gatherings of people are currently prohibited in order not to spread the infection. So the children are at home and cannot be anywhere else with other children. Access to public parks has also been prohibited, because children and young people who did not go to school met in the parks and favoured contagion from their families and elderly grandparents.
The government has therefore promulgated specific laws to support families who cannot work in smart working from home. The contribution is to pay for a babysitter if those workers are engaged in key roles such as healthcare or large food distributors or in the food industries etc. There are also special aids for handicapped workers (12 days for their specific needs instead of only three days a month), and special aids for those who need to take time off from work with the use of 15 days for both parents of child leave.
Schools do not provide for the daily care of children but keep them busy, from the age of three, with distance learning activities.
Schools have no agreements with day care organizations. There is no possibility to stipulate them because any type of gathering of people is prohibited and multiple children from different families cannot be brought together, contagion would be favoured. Nobody can take care of the children belonging to other families if not a babysitter at home for each family if their grandparents are not present. A lot of private organizations are giving great solidarity. Telephone companies offer free internet for school; public administrations can buy SIM cards for € 1.70; many publishing houses send free subscriptions to magazines and offer discount coupons for the purchase of non-paper books, or music. National television has reprogrammed the schedule and at specific times has reintroduced cartoons for children and many educational programs for adults. There are many concessions for those who have to spend time inside the home and assistance measures for those who have had to stop their autonomously working.
The role of the municipality or other governmental organisations
In Italy different task forces work with separate tasks. The general one, made up of the head of the government (the president of the Council of Ministers – Mr Conte -), the Commissioner of Civil Protection and the infectious disease experts is the engine of the nation’s decisions and determinations.
An important role is played by the governors of the individual regions, which are however coordinated by the Head of government, another important role is played by the mayors of each city who are coordinated by the governors of the regions. Every one of them can legislate with specific ordinances in harmony with the provisions of the national government.
The Army and all the police departments deal with public order and enforce the prohibitions, rules and restrictions imposed on all citizens. Thousands and thousands have broken the rules and been reported criminally.
Civil protection also carries out a very particular job: it supports hospitals in triage, supports health workers with ambulances, supplies health supplies and, with volunteers, helps that part of the elderly population that does not leave the house.
The worst affected regions have also appointed disaster managers to manage the reorganization of hospitals and the creation of new healthcare facilities.
Distance learning is progressing well. We asked the teachers to reprogram the long-term educational and teaching objectives. Many teachers have difficulties with working times: the time to plan and carry out a lesson has become longer and many of them have to take care of their children who, in turn, take advantage of distance learning, sometimes using the same parental device.
The principals had already organised, some time ago, Whats App and Telegram groups for informal communication with the teachers. To these they have added video group video conferences that allow to better coordinate the activities, to reprogram the objectives and share the new evaluation tools. Many schools already had cloud repositories to share learning units and teaching materials. The recommendation that the managers make daily to the teachers is not to overdo the lessons, to take the time to check them and to evaluate the students according to the new criteria specifically deliberated by the teaching staff.
There are a lot of different systems of distance-teaching. Some schools immediately used the electronic registers suites that allow you to open a dialogue with students asynchronously. In many basic schools the communication channels in use were used during the first week of distance-teaching were: telegram, Whats App, Padlet. In a second moment, these first immediate systems were joined by the use of synchronous communication systems and virtual classes. In many highschools synchronous platforms with virtual classrooms were already in use and therefore all the activities have simply “migrated” totally into the “distance dimension”.
In general, the group of teachers schedule the weekly and daily interventions, balance the workloads, prepare the lessons and talk to the boys from two to four hours a day in the morning. Usually, in the afternoon, the children prepare their homework and send it to the virtual classroom or to individual channels, to avoid that one’s exercises are copied by everyone.
Principals have several monitoring systems. They access the electronic registers of teachers and follow the progress of the lessons and the tasks that are assigned by each teacher at home. The managers access the repositories in which there is, for each teacher, a folder with the learning units carried out for the classes. The teachers are asked for a short fortnightly report on the progress of the lessons in the individual disciplines that is officially sent to the school’s institutional email address. Every 15 days the leaders gather the class councils through synchronous communication systems (hangout, meet etc.) to evaluate together the progress of the students.
The Principals, through the help of the digital team and the digital animator, direct the teachers on the technical use of the applications. The managers also send a series of notices to the teachers for general didactic coordination.
In the second week of forced closure the principals, urged by the Ministry of Education earlier in the week, responded to a very extensive national monitoring. They also clearly had to check for “disconnected” pupils and why. For the pupils who were disconnected due to unwillingness, the parents were made aware by e-mail and telephone calls. For pupils disconnected due to lack of technical equipment, most schools have already moved to allocate laptops and tablets present at school to families on free loan. For families disconnected from the network (very few indeed), schools will purchase cards for mobile telephony on the electronic market of the Public Administration at very low prices to be given on loan for use to families.
In this direction, the government has allocated sums that will be invested in mobile technologies for schools.
Final exams in primary, secondary education and in University
The role of ANP (Italian National Association of Principals) to support school leaders
ANP is playing a very important and decisive role in Italy.
– The ANP national task force has been at work from the first moment of the emergency in the study of the huge legislation that the government, the various individual ministries and regions produce every day. It provides managers with a summary of documents, operational guidelines and a draft of the documents that each manager must produce to adapt the organization of the school he directs to the rules that daily upset the ordinary school structure.
– An ANP lawyer task force is supporting Principals for reimbursements for all travel, including abroad and educational trips cancelled from February to today.
– Another ANP task force works continuously in the production of video lessons and agile refresher courses for all those managers who are not very familiar with technology (activating GSuite, for example, is not simple and immediate)
-Another ANP task force has activated refresher courses for teachers on the use of teaching platforms for synchronous activities.
The training is mediated by the technical-scientific structure that supports ANP which is Dirscuola which for years organized the online training of teachers and managers.
The lessons learned out of this situation?
The first lesson is that the Ministry alone would not have been effective. The Schools, adequately supported by an association like ANP, responded well and immediately even in a case like this. The support provided from ANP to managers and teachers and to the Ministry was important.
The second lesson concerns the general government situation. The “close” and the block of the travel of people and the suspension of the lessons had to take place long, long before to avoid all these infections.
Six tips for schools in Europe who are standing at the beginning of a longer period of close down
IT IS GOOD TO GET EQUIPPED BEFORE SUSPENDING THE LESSONS:
- – Decide and deliberate, within each school, which IT communication tools will be in use in case of closure, how to reschedule the lessons both from the didactic and from the organizational point of view among the teachers of the same classes, organize new parameters and criteria for the evaluation of the students.
- – For each school, choose the communication systems and make sure that the teachers are not left to choose their own independently: too many different teaching platforms destabilize the students.
- – Retrieve the phone numbers of older students and those of parents, as well as private emails. Younger children aged three to ten need parents to connect with teachers. Is important not break the line with school and teachers.
- – Prepare on time the programs on laptops and tablets to be given on loan for use and the loan contracts for each recipient family.
- – Use smart working for staff immediately and close schools to the public.
- – Make sure that the school website and the school’s facebook page, the channels opened by teachers with families and students are the sounding board of good practices to be adopted to reduce contagions.