The thought of moving to another country with children can be an extremely daunting one, but given the right consideration and planning, it can be a very positive experience for both the children as well as their parents.
One of the first things to consider is that children of a school age will almost certainly be required to integrate a lot faster than their parents, in order to keep up with both their education as well as the social tools required for blending in with their peers. I would strongly recommend that children moving to Italy are given some grounding in the Italian language before they are thrust into full-time education. This will enable them to adapt more quickly, for although children and teenagers will be able to pick up Italian far faster than their adult counterparts, life will still be a bit scary and confusing for them until that happens.
Italy is a very child-orientated country. With one of the lowest birth-rates in Europe, and female emancipation (modern Italian women are more career orientated, and less inclined to be tied to the kitchen sink than previous generations), Italy has still conserved its almost worshipful attitude to the little “prince or princess” of the house.
Italian parents do almost everything with their offspring; it is utterly normal and perfectly acceptable to take children to restaurants and bars, late into the night, and pretty much let them do as they please. For like Italian adults, Italian children are very socially robust. They are noisy, confident and full of life – something that may initially come as a bit of a culture shock for the rather more sedate British child.
Schooling in Italy is free to all children, regardless of their nationality. It is also currently compulsory from the age of six to the age of sixteen, although the limit may well be raised over the next few years. It is broken down as follows:
Scuola dell’Infanzia/ Scuola Materna/il Asilo – 3 to 6 years old, non-compulsory
Scuola Primaria – 6 to 11 years old.
Scuola Secondaria di Primo Grado – 11 to 14 years old.
Scuola Secondaria di Secondo Grado – 14 to 16 or 19 years old.
Public nursery schools (scuola dell’Infanzia/asilo) in the country are also free of charge, but can have a rather long waiting list. The Italian school system has a reasonably good reputation, but focuses more on rote memorization and obedience over creativity. Foreign language teaching in most Italian schools is particularly poor, with only 100 hours of language experience needed to teach at primary level. And whilst the schooling in Italy is free, books must be purchased from the secondary level, so from 11 years of age.
Another possibility for schooling in Italy, other that the private religious institutions, is the International English-language schools based in most of the larger cities. They are a popular option among expatriates and Italian families alike, but can be an expensive choice.
As far as healthcare for children is concerned, basic healthcare should be available for all European citizens; children can be signed up at the same time as their parents, and like most Italians, you may wish to go for a hybrid public/private healthcare option that allows for any shortfalls in the public health sector.