So how do you do it?


This is a project I have been wanting to do for a while, and do be warned, it’s a bit of a big’un. It’s in a handy, easy to read table (check me out) , so if you don’t have the time to read it all in one sitting, just come back later and check the rest out. I saw some really interesting differences and similarities between the different schools I visited last year. I hope in the future I can travel to some other countries and add to this table!

Ciao for now xx

Italy (state school) England (state school) Rome International school (fee paying)
Food The majority of primary schools in my area, finished the school day before lunch (12:45). This resulted in many children eating lunch at home. However, in the infanzia (preschool, 3-5years) schools, children mostly ate at school. The food was decidedly mixed, depending on what it was. For example, I didn’t rate the asparagus soup sauce mixed with rice. Whereas, the ragu was highly favoured, along with the tomato pasta. As expected some children had school dinner, whereas some had packed lunch. As with the other schools, the children ate in their age groups. But, unlike both the Italian schools I visited, the teachers generally ate separately. It definitely felt like the time was used not just for eating, but also for informal meetings, outside lesson work and respite. Condiments (salt, pepper, oil, vinegar) were always available and students used them in a way that showed they knew how to. Now, bare with me, I know that might sound basic, but for primary age children to know how to season their food doesn’t happen all that often in England. Again, students and teachers ate together with most of the teachers clustered together, with a few spread out. There seemed a very open relationship between the two groups.
Use of technology This was one of the only aspects of the Italian state school system that I felt harked back to my days at school. There was technology but usage wasn’t seamless and the majority of teaching and learning was still done by pen (or pencil) and paper. All classes had a blackboard and most had the addition of a smart board, which was the main piece of technology used. To my knowledge in primary school they didn’t study IT, which is interesting because they clearly prioritise English over IT, which makes sense in terms of their society, because they are unlikely to become a world leader in IT and computing, but good English skills can help them in so many different areas. The English school was both a surprise and exactly how I expected it to be. I knew that technology in schools had progressed, but how and to what extent was a mystery. The sheer amount of usage however was insane. Every classroom had multiple iPads and classes throughout the school were using them from Reception up to year 6 (10-11 year olds). Teachers seemed to have good knowledge about how to use the technology they had been given and I definitely think this is in part because it is technology that they are familiar with, it’s what they use at home. However, the impact of technology was not always wholly positive, some teachers remarked that very young children were treating books as if they were iPads and trying to swipe turn the page as opposed to picking it up and turning it. Coding was an addition to the curriculum since I was at school learning how to work word. And although yes, the children could learn complex technology skills such as coding. They still needed to be taught the basics such as word or powerpoint. When I went to Rome, I definitely had an expectation of quite high levels of technology usage based upon preconceptions about fee paying schools and how schools in England were using technology. I figured that they would be very similar, and they were. They had sets of iPads so that the whole class could have one, this made research for topics in History and Geography a lot easier without having to use clunky laptops. Teachers used iPads to conduct everyday tasks which was all great until the WIFI stopped working. But generally usage was very similar, unsurprisingly to the school in England.
Holistic development First of all, I should say that I am not sure if my opinions that follow will be misguided because of my lack of language skills. However, I felt in the Italian schools that academic development was the main concern. In school, teachers were there to teach and students were there to listen and learn. I never heard anyone say anything about development other than an academic one. This probably because per day Italian children spend less time with teachers than typically in England. Going from the Italian school to the English school within the space of a few days was a big revelation. Teachers had knowledge about their students that well surpassed their academic development (but their knowledge of this was super detailed and extensive). They knew children who were struggling to make friends, or those who were being ‘babied’ by their friends. Like most of the categories, the international school was definitely most similar to the English school. They had astute knowledge about individual children’s social, emotional development.
The school day While not in school, many students are looked after by their parents (typically mother), or more often by their grandparents. During dinnertime discussions with my ‘Italian mum’, we both expressed concern of the challenges that Italy will face when the adult generation now age, but have to work to a later age. Consequently are unable to help with childcare, as their parents did for them. It may be that they begin to follow a more UK style school day.


Another important aspect for me about the Italian school day was break time. Some of my fondest memories are of the antics me and my classmates got up to during break and it provided much needed time and space to relax away from class, and get some oxygen pumping around the body again! So I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when at break time the children remain, mostly seated, for the entire duration of break. When I asked why, I was simply told they were too small. They. Were. Six. Years. Old.

As with typical English state primary schools, the school day runs from 9am-3pm, roughly. This worked well, with English and Maths always being taught in the morning, when children were more alert. Then the afternoon was used for Geography, History, D&T or ICT. Subjects, which generally hold children’s attention more effectively. Assemblies, for you native English are very readers, are something that I’m sure you are very familiar with. Personally, I have fond memories of assemblies, I especially loved singing all together, because it felt uplifting and bonding to be all together. Italian schools didn’t do this, and I don’t think I really appreciated assemblies until they weren’t there. The school as a whole didn’t have a big community feel, which is very strange for the Italian culture. Daily routine in the international school was pretty much the same in the British school, so I won’t waste time repeating it. However, I will talk to you all about team teaching. This is a mode of teaching that I hadn’t witness before, and it worked very well in this school. The classrooms for each year group were built as two separate classes, but in the wall that separated them, there was a large sliding door. There was just about enough space in each classroom to hold the entire year abroad. The two teachers would split the responsibility for teaching one teacher would be in charge of the Maths curriculum and the other, English. They would often combine for the starter activities and then split into ability sets, and then each teacher would be responsible for different ability sets. So for example, they might be in the fractions part of their curriculum. They would do a warm-up activity together and then separate off where one set might be on adding fractions whereas the other might be on simplying them. Their ability set teacher would then give a short separate introduction and they would go to their desks and complete their exercises. From my experience, this was a great way of doing ability setting. Because they were all together at the start of the lesson, every ability could learn from each other. Keeping the door open whilst working may reduce the stigma of us and them. after a student had done their work they would goto their teacher to have it checked. When a child had done particularly well, for example, understood something they previously struggled with, the teacher might send them to go and show the other teacher their work. I saw the pride children had when this happened. But it is important to note that they did team teaching with a year group of roughly 40 students. Unfortunately, with most English state schools, this might not be possible.