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May 2017

Once upon a time in Italy

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The UK ELT industry heaved a sigh of relief after the Italian ministry of education invited its own state schools to apply for funding from the latest Pon programmes. These are EU-funded schemes designed to close the educational gap of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. In the past, several groups of Italian high school students have benefited from these funds to study English in the UK, Ireland and Malta.

Henry Tolley, head of business development at Trinity College London, urged English language schools in the UK to approach study travel agents and Italian high schools about what they have to offer. In particular, they should target institutions in the south of Italy, where the lion’s share of the funding will go, he said.

In 2015, Italy provided the largest source market for UK English language schools, at 25 per cent of the total.

Italian high schools can apply to participate in the programme, which will allow students to attend a language course during the school year 2017–18 in a country that is part of Erasmus Plus. The UK, despite its plans for Brexit, is still in the scheme.

Schools must specify in their application where they wish their students to study, and this detail can’t be changed at a later stage. Students are required to have at least a B1 level in the language of their choice and attain B2 or higher by the end of the programme.

Courses will need to offer sixty hours of instruction over a three-week period. A language test must be taken at the end of the course, either abroad or in Italy on students’ return, and must be awarded by an accredited exam board.

Funding for the programme provides a maximum of €45,000 for each group of 15 students, including language certification fees. The closing date for schools’ applications is 26 May.

Languages are key in many of the objectives of the Pon 2017 programme, and funding is on offer not only for studies abroad but also for courses that strengthen learning opportunities in Italian schools.

Pre-schools, for example, can apply for funds of up to €20,000 to run thirty-hour bilingual or multilingual education programmes. For primary and secondary schools there is up to €45,000 for language courses of thirty, sixty or a hundred hours that should take student to B1 level – the minimum level required to then participate in programmes abroad.

Primary schools can also obtain funding to organise one or more thirty-hour English courses. Under this, the Italian ministry says priority must be given to native-speaker teachers, and the school can employ a non-native only if there is no one else available. However, according to EU law, employers cannot discriminate on the basis of mother tongue rather than language proficiency.

Regional adult education centres and state schools that offer courses for adults – akin to further education colleges – can register to offer foreign language courses over two years. Maximum funding for adult education centres is €50,000, while for state schools it is €30,000.

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