consigli e risorse per essere cosmopoliti

Expat families in Rome: how to choose a school in the Eternal City

This post is the second episode of a two-part series for helping expat families that have to choose a school in Italy and, in particular, in the city of Rome.

In the first part (The Italian Education system explained to English Speaking Expats) I have explained the Italian Education system to those who are not familiar with it.

In this post I will consider whether or not to choose an international school, I will mention the different English-speaking schools’ options in Rome and the new trend of “bilingual school” that is expanding in Italy.

Choosing an English-speaking International school

A reason you might want to choose an international school is that of the diversity of the student body. Also, if your stay is brief (2 years or less) or if you are intending to return to your home country some time in the future, it might be better to send your child to an international school.

International schools in Rome cost from 10.000 to 25.000 euros a year, not exactly cheap if you consider, just by comparison, that each student in the Italian public education system costs around 4,000 euros a year (and it is paid by taxes). This can be partially explained by the fact that international schools have great facilities (in terms of classrooms but also sport grounds, art and music rooms, and so on) and that in some cases their teachers are more qualified than Italian ones (which does not mean they are necessarily better). In fact, the most serious schools publish profile pages or the CV of each of their teachers, where one can find that they hold a master or doctoral degree. These teachers are also better paid than Italian public school teachers and have incentives for organizing further extracurricular activities or clubs for pupils. This explains, at least in part, the exorbitant cost of these schools, often calibrated to expat families whose school fees are paid by the corporation they work for.

Also, I think it’s important, that when you put a child in a very privileged environment, to give him/her the chance to remember that not everyone is so fortunate. It is for this reason that many international schools, have fundraising and volunteering activities both in the school and out (including the “service” component of the International Baccalaureate’s “CAS”).

Three main model of international school

If you take the international option, you should decide which system suits you better, whether British, American or IB. Some international schools are a mixture of various school systems (British/American/some Italian) with English as the common language, so it is best to read carefully each website before making the choice. Most end up with the International Baccalaureate (IB) at senior school level.

This said, English speaking International schools in Rome, roughly follow three different models and have different programs.

  • Schools that offer the British National Curriculum. In brief, the schools offering the British system are St. George’s (looks and feels like a private British school in the UK, has 2 campuses, very good academic reputation in virtually all subjects including arts and music); New School (looks like a state comprehensive in the UK, has A-levels and not the IB, not for profit, incredibly friendly and familiar atmosphere, quite good reputation especially for sciences and drama); Core International School (again looks like a state comprehensive in the UK, has only nursery and primary but I must add that admission criterias are very opaque).
  • Schools that offer the American Curriculum. AOSR, Marymount International and others follow in this category. In the U.S. school system the emphasis is on a “can do” attitude in which the child can learn to maximize his/her potential. The most “American” school is American Overseas School of Rome. It is non selective and has the atmosphere of an American public school. It offers both the American diploma (plus APs) and the IB. Another American school is St. Stephen’s School, is only High school only and has the IB. This is the equivalent of a prep school for seniors and is located in the south of the city. Marymount International School is also an American School but is a catholic one and is quite “in” among Italians at nursery/elementary school level.
  • IB Schools that offer the IB curriculum starting from primary school (IBO’s primary years program). Among these are Rome International school and Ambrit. Ambrit is a hybrid: part Italian, part American, part English National Curriculum, as is Rome International School, currently doing PYP and IB. Rome International School is very popular among Italians and with very good facilities.

Some international schools offer courses in Italian or in other languages. Some schools organize examinations (such as the “terza media exam”) that allow pupils, if so desired, to re-enter the Italian system.

Evaluating the quality of a school

While every school is unique, making comparisons between schools can be difficult. There are, however, a few objective things that can be measured. For example: quality British International Schools must usually be accredited by an external body, such as the Council of British International Schools (COBIS). COBIS schools undergo a statutory inspection by the UK-based Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), the same body that inspects the majority of the independent schools in the UK. Other organizations offering forms of accreditation to international schools, include the Council of International Schools (CIS).

For High Schools you can compare IB results. An acquaintance of mine has been doing this test for some years, and usually says that, in Rome, the competition is between St. George’s and St. Stephens, that have the best results on alternate years. This, however, may well be attributable not only to the quality of teachers but also to selective entry criteria. This might mean that it might be unfair to compare, for example St. George’s with AOSR, given than the latter is a non-selective school (but then, again, not all student at AOSR go for IB, others may opt for the American Diploma, with or without APs, which complicates even more the comparison).

Another example: New School is the only one that offers British A-levels and not IB, making it incomparable to any other school in Rome (but open to comparison to similar schools in the rest of Italy or in the UK, if you take into account a similar student body).

A list of the international schools of the city of Rome

What follows is the complete list of schools. For more information on costs, programs and locations, please contact each institution directly and see also the Rome International Schools Association website which also contains an interactive map of the various schools across the city.

Via Veientana 297, 00189, Rome
From 3 to 13 years. It follows the English curriculum but also guarantees the Italian state exams. It is about to offer also a secondary school with the IB program

Via Filippo Tajani, 50, 00149, Rome
From 3 to 13 years

Via Cassia 811, 00189, Rome
From 3 to 18 years (American Diploma and International Baccalaureate)

Via della Camilluccia 669, 00135, Rome
From 3 to 18 years
Founded in 1972 (from St George’s), it follows the British curriculum. Has A levels and not the IB.

Via Crati 19, 00199, Rome
From 3 to 11 years
It is a small school with the British program. It is also cheaper than many others.

Via Vito Sinisi 5, 00189, Rome
From 2 to 6 years

Via Gradoli 86, 00189, Rome
From 3 to 11 years

Via dei Laghi 00047 Marino, Rome
From 3 to 6 years

Via degli Scozzesi 13, 00046 Grottaferrata, Rome
From 6 to 14 years

Via di Villa Lauchli 180 (Via Cassia Antica Km. 7), 00191 Rome
From 2 to 18 years (American Diploma e International Baccalaureate)

Via Guglielmo Pecori Giraldi, 137, 00135, Rome
From 2 to 18 years (with International Baccalaureate)

Via delle Benedettine, 50/b, 00135, Rome
From 3 to 14 years

Via Teleclide 40, Casal Palocco, 00124, Rome
From 3 to 18 years (with International Baccalaureate)

Via Cassia Km. 16 (La Storta), 00123, Rome
It is the main British school in Rome. From 3 to 18 years old. It has another campus in the Vatican/Aurelia area for the Junior School. It is the main British school in Rome. Immersed in the greenery of the La Storta area. Has the International Baccalaureate.

Via di Santa Maria Mediatrice 22G, 00165, Rome
From 3 agli 11 years. It is the detached branch of the largest St. George’s of La Storta.

Via Aventina 3, 00153, Rome
From 14 to 18 years. With International Baccalaureate

Via di Grotte Portella, 00044 Frascati,
From 2 agli 11 years
An “alternative international school”

Via Frascati 213, 00040 Rocca di Papa (Roma)
tel. 06-94791063
Dai 2.5 ai 6 anni
UK curriculum + Montessori Method

Via Ernesto Parisi, 11, 00134, Rome
From 3 to 11 years

Via Giovanni Animuccia 11, Rome
It is a small nursery school and children’s school for children From 2 to 6 years. It is not part of Rome International School Association.

Via Cassia 344, 00191 Rome
From 2 to 6 years

Via del Grottino snc
00046 Grottaferrata (RM)
dai 3 ai 14 anni
from 12 months to 13 years old

Apart from Rome, there are many other international schools in the rest of Italy, A complete list can be found here: Le scuole internazionali in lingua inglese in Italia. Plus there are French, German, Spanish, Swiss and Japanese schools in Italy.

The new trend: bilingual schools

Among Italian parents the new hype is choosing a bilingual school. What is the difference between a bilingual school and an international school? A bilingual school is a school that basically offers the Italian program plus more English language and English-taight subjects than normal Italian schools (the second language is usually English, but there are also bilingual schools with French or Chinese). They are a much cheaper choice than international schools, with fees varying from 4.000 to 8.000 euros a year.

An Important thing to bear in mind is that the status of these schools as “bilingual” is self-defined: there is no common norm or rule.

In the absence of a regulatory definition, the world of “bilingual” schools is a bit of a jungle, so you have to keep your eyes open. Some schools self-define ‘bilingual’ but then offer only 4 more weekly classes in English than a public school does. Some others, like Istituto Marymount, for example, offer up to 16 hours a week of English language and subjects taught in English by native speakers and may be better candidates for using the term “bilingual school”. It is therefore important that parents who are interested in this kind of school ask for detailed information on the amount of English and English taught classes for the various academic years.

Until recently, all the schools offering a bilingual pathway were “scuole paritarie” i.e. private (often catholic) schools. In this past year, some Italian public schools at primary/elementary and secondary/middle school level, have begun offering extra English by adopting, at a very convenient cost for parents, the Cambridge “primary checkpoint” or “secondary checkpoint” programs, taught by mother-tongue teachers.

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  1. Great detailed posts. Wondering if there are any public schools in Italy that are english as the primary language. If someone was looking to spend just one year living in Italy but without the means to pay for 3 private school tuition fees would there be any public options? Thanks for any advice you can pass along.

    1. I know no State in the world that provides for a foreign-speaking public school at its expenses… having said that there are cheaper alternatives to international schools and these are bilingual school, offering a double Italian – English-language program. Which city are you interested in?

      1. Thanks for the reply. We’d likely be looking at Florence, or Verona, or Rome. I guess open to any potential options.

        1. In Rome Core International School costs less than other international schools, Istituto Marymount offers a good bilingual program at price less expensive than international schools. Some other cheaper options are “scuole paritarie” that have more English though they are not bilingual such as Scuola Maria Ausiliatrice or Scuola Falconieri

  2. Hi Elisabetta, thanks a lot for your valuable articles! May I bother you a bit more asking for advise for my case. As I see mainly info for Rome and other link to Milan/others not working for me. I am going to move to Italy for a work in a year with no clear yet term of stay (some years starting with mobility and potentially might be getting local employment), but in any case looking for my kids for English Speaking education (never knows what life will bring). We are coming from Latvia (Europe, thus no pure UK or US linkage), kids girls of age 15 and 11. Location not exactly Milan, but not far from (closer to Monza and Sesto San Giovanni), I assume for English speaking school Milan could be the only option, right? Or Monza/S.S.Giovanni could work as well? Would you be able to recommend something or just post a right link? Thanks in advance for your time and interest, Regards, Jekaterina

  3. Hi Elisabetta, love your article and site. So detailed and informative on a subject that can be hard to find information on. My family is likely to move to Rome next year. At that time we will have a 5, 3, 2 and 1 year old. I lived abroad as a child and like the idea of starting them in the Italian public system or possibly a private Italian Catholic school. Bilingual school was not an option 30+ years ago in the village I lived in so I have no experience with that. I plan to begin studying Italian, but have no delusions about being fluent in a year before heading overseas. Would you recommend a local school or a bilingual school in our case to start out? We would be planning on a 3 to 4 year stay and then returning to the US. Thanks in advance for any advice. We are really looking forward to it!

    1. Cate, answering you is very difficult. It really depends on how much do you want your children to get some Italian. It is no big problem for your smaller kids (the ones aged 2 and 1) that I would put in a local school because they would not reach elementary school levels in your time in Italy. The older ones are another question, because by the time you go back they’ll be at least 8 and 6 years of age. For them a bilingual school might be a good compromise. Don’t expect a perfect level of English, of course. It also will all boil down to where you are going to live in Rome. Moving around is not easy and your want schools that are near to home. It is all too vague now

  4. Elisabetta – Thanks for the great post. We are planning to move to Rome next year and have an option for my 7 year old son for New School and St George. I like both and it’s hard as we cannot visit seeing the travel restrictions. Any feedback or suggestions welcome. I liked New School but class group currently quite small which may be harder to integrate. We would expect to be in Italy for about 2-4 years returning for 11+. Thanks.

    1. St. george is more structured, it is older and resembles more a private school. New School is younger (as the name implies), smaller and looks like a comprehensive. There are pros and cons. New School is slightly stronger on drama and St. George’s more on music. New School is more towards pencil and paper and St. George has more technology, including robotics and coding. New School uses ORT books also for older kids while st. George’s abandons ORT by Year 3 in favour of a variety of different books both non fiction and fiction, to match individual tastes. Both are good schools. Finally, New School has A levels and st. George’s has IB.
      Your choice!

  5. Hi Elisabetta, Thanks for this wonderful post. It really helps me a lot. I will move to Rome with my 4 years old son from Asia. My son learned some English but only phonics and some vocabularies (apple, car, water…,and so on) I plan to send him to international school but have no idea on which one is better on assisting my son to gradully integrate into the new environment. Currently I am considering in Core / Marymount/ AOSR. Could you advise which one’s early learning teachers are more patient and can guide new Asian students with patience?

    1. Hi there Ms Wu, you ask me an impossible question… in the sense that it would be impossible for me to know directly the teachers from each school.
      I am sure any early-year teacher of an international school is more than used to dealing with foreign kids, including those who arrive with little or no English. A four-year-old child can acquire language pretty quickly. All the schools you have mentioned also offer an Italian program, and this has the added benefit that your child, at the end of primary school, will also have an idea of the culture is immersed in and possibly even progress to an Italian middle school (if so you may wish).
      Having said this, if I were you I would first try to apply to Core. The reasons are twofold: it’s a smaller school with a family-feel touch and, secondly, it’s also the cheapest one.
      If they don’t accept you, then I would choose AOSR over Marymount. AOSR has a more international and diverse student body.

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