Open Schools in Summer: the Plan of Italy’s Ministry of Education and Merit

Culture - May 1, 2024

From the very first hours of the Meloni-led government, the school sector has intended to give important signs of evolution, growth and structuring. From the valorisation of STEM subjects – a process that passes through the implementation of a series of initiatives aimed at the massive inclusion of girls in science subject programmes – to the establishment of the High School of the Made in Italy and the plurality of activities that also involve social aspects, such as emotional literacy and concrete awareness of phenomena such as bullying and cyberbullying.

A final but equally important innovation concerns the possibility of keeping schools open during the summer period; last September, the Minister for Education and Merit, Giuseppe Valditara, had already announced that the government would work in this direction in order to propose an appropriate plan. In recent weeks, Valditara has therefore signed a decree allocating over 400 million euro to finance inclusion and skills enhancement activities for the summer break. The measure, which covers the school years 2023/24 and 2024/25, is intended for state primary and secondary schools and for non-commercial private school recognised by the state.

The resources, which amount to EUR 80 million more than the previous two-year project, would allow the activation of courses that could involve, depending on the schools’ proposals, between 800,000 and 1.3 million students, for 1.714 million additional hours of activity.


Open schools in summer in Italy: what the project consists of

As explained by the head of the department in Viale Trastevere, the Summer Plan aims to structure “a school that is a point of reference for students and families even in the summer, with sports, recreational activities, workshops or reinforcement activities, making use of all possible positive synergies, from local authorities to third sector associations”. Reference is therefore made to a totally inclusive measure that should represent an experience of personal enrichment and growth for children and young people. It would also support families, or rather parents, in a complex period such as the summer, without necessarily having to resort to other ploys to keep daughters and sons busy during the day. So, a double benefit that concerns the whole family.


The “School and Skills 2021-2027 National Programme”

The text informs that the funds, i.e. the 400 million mentioned at the beginning, are part of the “School and Skills 2021-2027 National Programme” and should make it possible to support projects involving recreational, sports, musical, theatrical and environmental-themed activities but also disciplinary reinforcement. Teachers will be able to decide to join the various projects on a voluntary basis and may be remunerated within the limits of the resources available for the educational modules activated.

The experience of PON (National Operative Program) 2014-2020, with the Pathways for Transversal Skills and Orientation (PCTO) abroad must also be mentioned.

A public notice of 23 February 2024 made 140 million available to technical and vocational institutes for training activities for transversal skills and orientation through experiences abroad, to be carried out in the 2023-2024 school year, during the summer period and with the possibility of carrying out classroom language training in advance, as specified in the ministerial note regarding the Summer Plan.


A project that also involves sports associations, the third sector and local authorities

It should be added that within the scope of the organisational autonomy at their disposal – as stated in a ministerial note issued on 11 April – school institutions will be able to further enrich the offer of the Summer Plan, individually or in collaboration, thanks to alliances between the school and the local area with local authorities, universities, sports associations, voluntary and third sector organisations, as well as through the active involvement of families and their associations.

The projects may provide for the schools themselves to manage the activities or for local authorities or other local actors to organise and manage them within the school buildings, in some cases with a contribution from the families of the students involved.


NRRP: funds earmarked for STEM

Another interesting factor that could come into play in the realisation of the plan  – and that would therefore allow for an additional ceiling – concerns the use of the NRRP resources allocated to combat school drop-outs and to overcome territorial disparities. The Ministry, then, explains that the 600 million still in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan for the strengthening of STEM skills, a theme that, as anticipated at the outset, remains very dear to this government, will also be included in the provision of the plan.


Schools in Europe: how many stay open during the summer period?

Italy is moving in this direction, and analysing the Eurydice report “The organisation of school time in Europe”, which provides an overview of the annual school days for all the European countries included in the Erasmus+ programme, the Bel Paese would come close to Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, the Netherlands, some Swiss cantons, Liechtenstein and Norway: all places that see less than eight weeks of rest, even though the process remains long and complex. It starts from a base of 13 weeks, which Italy shares with countries such as Greece, Latvia, Malta, Portugal, Iceland and Albania.

There is also a middle ground, namely countries where the break is between 8 and 10 weeks, and we refer to Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Luxembourg and Cyprus.

Approaching the Italian range, thus counting from 10 to 12 weeks, there are Spain, Estonia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey.

A parterre that is not entirely uniform, not least because of variables that must be taken into account, like variations in interruptions counted throughout the school year, approaches to teaching, programmes pursued, and extracurricular activities in which young students are involved. In short, the variables are numerous. But following the decision to moderate the break, remains the will to cooperate with families and offer support.


Giuseppe Valditara, Minister for Education and Merit: “Our goal? To provide a point of reference”

In this sense, Valditara specified to the media in the last few hours: “The schools have already received an official note and the money is already available. It’s 400 million to which we must also add the 600 for STEM and the 750 million for training and inclusion. So, these are really impressive figures to which we also add the resources we have allocated for the summer programs of the Erasmus for young people. A significant plan never realised before. When they finish school, students lose a point of reference because their families are working families, who may not be able to afford the beach house and the hotel in the mountains or other leisure activities for their children. The goal is to provide a point of reference”.

It should also be considered that there are pros and cons to both a longer summer holiday and a shorter break. But in general, as Valditara clarified, the aim is to find a balance that allows young people to have a summer ‘home’, equipped so that they can continue with their learning and growth processes, and parents to be able to carry on with their work without worry.