Measures were taken by the Italian Government in response to the coronavirus threat. On 4 March, the government closed all schools, training centres and universities nationwide (by Decree of the Prime Minister) after consultation with social partners and local authorities and taking into account the opinion of the scientific-technical committee, established by the government. Schools (including VET) closure continued during the entire lockdown period.
All relevant authorities, (the education ministry, the labour ministry, national and local ESF authorities) demonstrated commitment in implementing distance learning for all learners and trainees, with particular attention to vulnerable groups (learners with disabilities, youth-at-risk, laid-off workers and migrants).
ESF-funded VET was also reorganised. On 6 March, distance learning was authorised. Particular attention was given in tracking attendance (monitoring parameters such as log-in data, effectiveness of learners’ connection, intermediate tests and interactivity with trainers and learning simulation).
A note from the National Agency for Active Labour Market Policies (ANPAL) on March 10 defined technical specifications of synchronous distance VET learning and training costs.
This switch to e-learning was followed by the State-Regions-Autonomous Provinces Agreement of 31 March 2020, which allowed for temporary derogation from the guidelines approved by the conference of regions and autonomous provinces (25/07/2019) on e-learning.
National and regional working groups and tasks forces have been created to tackle the crisis, including the civil protection operational committee and the education ministry experts committee for the organisation the reopening of schools in September.
Hygiene and safety guidelines for learners
The legislative Decree 17 March 2020, n. 18 (national safety guidelines for workers, learners, and families) informed learners and their families on hygiene and safety measures.
The education ministry advised all schools to offer e-learning opportunities and provided instructions on the design of teaching activities (teachers had to reschedule daily and weekly workload, prepare lessons and use asynchronous and synchronous platforms with virtual classrooms). Instructions on special support for learners with disabilities and other special needs and on evaluation/assessment of distance learning activities were also provided.
The education ministry and the technology, innovation and digitalisation ministry signed agreements with the national TV (RAI) and many firms and associations. Online resources include:
- Coronavirus: la digitalizzazione a supporto di cittadini e imprese
- Didattica a distanza
- RAI per la didattica
Provision for vulnerable groups of learners
The education ministry provided schools with financial resources for the allocation of tablets and laptops on free loan. At regional level, training agencies were allowed to procure and distribute IT tools essential for the implementation of distance learning, as part of approved funding.
Practical training in companies
Type 2 apprentices (professional apprenticeship) employed in essential services (including health services, food sector, and sanitary equipment) could work, provided that the workplace was safe. All other companies were closed, including those which normally employ the largest share of apprentices in the country (tourism and the retail sector). Apprentices employed in these sectors could follow distance learning but practical aspects could not be delivered online in some occupational fields, so training had to be suspended.
Decisions on final exams
Exams may be held physically (except lower secondary schools), avoiding public gatherings with respect to prevention and protection measures and to the specific needs of disabled persons. If it proves impossible to implement these measures, or if the presence of a learner is not possible, teleconferencing arrangements are allowed. A prime-ministerial decree (Decree of the Prime Minister of 17 May 2020 (EN)) included decisions on decisions on final exams and assessment in general.
Reflections on main challenges
The lockdown has demonstrated the importance of having equal access to distance learning with broadband connections and IT devices. The education ministry has financed schools to provide tablets to low-income learners.
In some occupational fields, the theoretical component can easily be taught online, but practical aspects cannot be effectively delivered because of a lack of access to tools, materials, equipment and technology. The Decree of 26 April has established new rules for research, tertiary and post-secondary levels (EQF 4-8 levels) with practical activities allowed (such as traineeships, experimental research and laboratory and/or teaching activities and exercises), taking into account the organisation of the premises and of work activities, ensuring social distancing and preventing gatherings, and also meeting the specific needs of disabled persons. This complies with the Technical document on the possible reshaping of the measures for the containment of SARS-CoV-2 contagion in the workplace and relevant prevention strategies published by the National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work (INAIL). If it proves impossible to implement these measures, or if the presence of students and/or researchers is not required, teleconferencing arrangements may be made.
VET teachers and learners also need high quality digital skills and confidence in using web solutions, and this crisis could provide an opportunity to develop these skills across the VET teaching workforce and the beneficiaries of training measures. Relevant webinars were organised for teachers and online resources were made available free of charge for both learners and teachers.
Decisions and organisation of closure:
- Decree of the Prime Minister of the 8th of March 2020 (EN)
- ANPAL Note of the 6th of March 2020 (Communication to the Managing Authorities to request the authorisation for distance learning for ESF training activities)
- State-Regions-Autonomous Provinces Agreement of the 31st of March 2020 (VET e-learning, applicable during the emergency phase of Covid-19)
- Decree of the Prime Minister of the 17th of May 2020 (EN) (Phase 2)
- Regional VET measures for distance learning in Covid emergency are reported in a table provided by TECNOSTRUTTURA
Decisions and notes with specific relevance to VET:
- Ministry of Education - Note of the 6th of March 2020 (Note for schools regarding the closure)
- ANPAL: Note of the 10th of March 2020 (Operational indications on distance learning for ESF training projects)
- Ministry of Education - Note of the 17th of April 2020 (Operational Indications for distance learning and students’ rights).
Reaching out to vulnerable groups of learners:
- Letter of the Ministry of Education to schools, students and families, for safeguarding the right to education of students with disabilities on the 27th of April 2020.
- Ministry of Education, Thematic web channel on Inclusion L’inclusione via web.
Organisation of practical training in companies:
- Cedefop Synthesis report on how the coronavirus outbreak affected apprenticeships in the EU Member States, Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom
- Ministry of Labour - FAQ (Safe training for workers and work-based learners)
- Technical document on the possible reshaping of the measures for the containment of SARS-CoV-2 contagion in the workplace and relevant prevention strategies published by the INAIL (National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work.