6.000 Italian teachers: an Odyssey
With the last straw kindly offered by PM Matteo Renzi
The turmoil triggered by the series of reforms carried out by Mr. Matteo Renzi has been including, at least in the last week and a half, the partly unheard voice of about 6.000 aspiring teachers, many of them already working in either public or private schools with respectively supply-teacher contracts or temporary contracts renewed year by year.
The above-mentioned teachers can be said to be “aspiring” since they passed all the steps (computerised pre-selection test on a various range of subjects, written – or laboratory – test on the subject of interest and oral test in the form of a complete lesson, to be given in front of a commission, on a randomly-picked topic belonging to the subject of interest) of a competitive exam on a national scale, launched at the end of 2012 to select teachers for Italian public school. This competitive exam had budgeted a fixed number of winners per region; after those, there were what in Italian are called idonei, meaning “you passed all the steps but you are not included in the winners’ rankings because ahead of you there are other people who are either younger (!) or have got more qualifications than you (extra qualifications and publications, always related to the subject of interest, added up to the final mark stating your position in the rosters). We are going to call these aspiring teachers with the Italian name idonei from now on.
The public competition announcement for the 2012 competitive exam stated the issuing of graduatorie di merito, which are rosters including both winners and idonei, all listed by final mark (rules explained above). Candidates usually have the right to be picked from these rosters and be given a permanent, full-time teaching position at public school until they expire. We are going to call these rosters with the Italian acronym GM from now on. According to the School Consolidated Law (Italian 1994 TU on Education, and later amendments), GM have a three-year long life: during these years, teachers are employed following a 50/50 ratio, that means 50% from the GM and 50% from GAE (GAE is a different type of roster which is close at present, on which teachers who got their teaching qualifications before 2007 are listed).
Imagining whoever has read up to this point has already arrived at their wits’ end, and giving everybody a warm welcome to the Italian world of “change government-change everything that was looked at as Gospel one minute before”, it is important to illustrate the first attempt at taking away from idonei what they had legally obtained, in the name of what idonei themselves still have not completely understood. By the end of August 2013 all the rosters for all the different subjects should have been issued; it is what the public competition announcement had stated. In reality all the ones for Lazio region, and many from Tuscany and Sicily, had not been published at all by that date; Lazio actually issued its rosters in February 2014. The logical conclusion to what can surely be considered a big mistake made by the government would be “ok, teachers included in the delayed rosters will be granted one more year to be hired”. Truth is that nobody from the Ministry of Education has ever done anything in order to mend their ways; instead, Regional Education offices would blame the Ministry, which would in turn blame the Regional Education offices. In September 2013 Former Minister of Education Maria Chiara Carrozza even deliberately decided not to go through GM, but only through GAE, when the need would arise to select teachers beyond the fixed number of winners – that was the case in many Italian regions, since the demand for public school teachers in each region had meanwhile increased, due to different reasons among which retirements and double-ranking of teachers both in GM and GAE. Former Minister Carrozza and her officials have never accounted for what they had then decided. Readers can easily depict the reaction from the idonei side. That was a period of despair but nonetheless of reinforcement of the acknowledgment of rights which have been acquired by value, by quality, by “merit” as said in Italian language (GM= graduatorie di merito= merit rosters).
A certain flow in the hiring process was later made sure by the application of the Ministerial Decree n. 356 dated May 2014, stating that the idonei included in the GM had the right, despite the fact they were not winners, to be given a permanent, full-time teaching contract in public school, providing that the competitive exam winners would come before them, and that the ratio was still a 50/50 to be shared with the GAE. From an initial higher number, the idonei yet to be hired are now 6.000. An amount which could be easily worked out with the right policy of hiring. In the meanwhile, in February 2014 representatives of idonei on a national scale met Alessandro Fusacchia, Head of Cabinet at the Ministry, thus leaving the shadow and being eventually officially recognized as a group having a voice, and rights too.
Let us say that, approximately since September 2014, even though that is only a formal date as the process of being called to be offered a teaching position starts after the 15th-August festivities, idonei started to get jobs. In the meantime, Italian government had started to be led by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who then appointed Stefania Giannini as Minister of Education – she was the one to put the signature on the above mentioned Ministerial Decree n. 356.
Since Spring 2014 Matteo Renzi has been advocating renewal in all aspects of Italian socio-political life, including the Italian school system. Together with his pool of ministers and officers, in Autumn 2014 he published a document called La Buona Scuola (literally “The Good School”, meaning good quality in many aspects) and started campaigning from region to region with the aim of explaining it and gathering support. “Hiring all the teachers Italian school needs”, “Stop to one-year long supply teachers, we want to provide continuity to our students”, and, finally and magically, “We are about to launch an extraordinary employment scheme in order to permanently hire 150.000 new teachers […] All the winners and idonei from last competitive exam”. All these are quotations from La Buona Scuola, .pdf version; the last quotation can be drawn from page 15.
La Buona Scuola introduced itself as a very innovative programme in various sides, last but not least the fact that everybody from students to students’ families and teachers could comment on it and make suggestions through web forms and forums, even taking the document into the official teachers’ councils in every school to be discussed, and then sending the results via email or web form. The idonei supported it, promoted it, discussed it via all the possible forms including the most popular social networks, tried to be realistic about it not to see their aspirations spoiled in the end, went to all the campaign dates, defended it from other categories of teachers who had been excluded from the 150.000 (number made up of GM and GAE candidates only – yes, there are at least two other categories of candidates to a permanent teaching position in Italy, but that is yet another story). Until a few days ago; and, as readers may have noticed, the tone of this article is becoming less and less journalistic and more and more heartfelt, as the conclusion (in terms of time) of the idonei’s Odyssey is approached.
What should have been a decreto legge, which in Italian language represents an Administrative Order, or better a Law which is not going to be discussed within Parliament but only put into effect, was first of all delayed several times from the end of January to mid-March 2015; in the end it was presented as a d.d.l., disegno di legge, a bill which needs to be discussed and, if need be, amended in Parliament. The same idonei who, during the thousands of conferences the government held to present La Buona Scuola, had been reassured that they would be hired and that the figures budgeted were going to be confirmed, only a few days ago experienced the cold shower represented by Article 8 of the newly-presented School Bill, stating that there is going to be a derogating provision of the School Consolidated Law (Italian 1994 TU on Education) and that all the GM are going to be cancelled, that means that we are not going to be granted the jobs we have all the rights to claim, we are not going to obtain the position for which we have studied for a whole year, passed three competitive steps and waited for.
The subject pronoun we has been underlined and written in bold, as I am one of the idonei. I am in quite a good position in two rosters, which are English Language for lower-secondary school and English Language and Culture for upper-secondary; I command the English language in ways Mr. Renzi and his whole entourage can only dream of, and according to my past and present employers – and to my past and present students – I am a very good teacher. I would have been permanently hired in September 2015, had Mr. Renzi not changed everything all of a sudden and decided that ops, we can’t grant those very high figures we said we would anymore, and that hey, even though when it came to the Senate Reform and the Job Act I literally did what I wanted now I feel the urgent need to include the Parliamentary oppositions in all the decisions regarding schools.
The most shameful thing was to be said “Don’t worry, you are going to be hired” (and when I use the word “said” I mean that our representatives have been looked straight in the eye and said those exact words), then two days later discover from the media that reality was very, very different.
There are many reasons for Mr. Renzi and his crew to act the way they are acting, for example the question of public funding to private schools, which he is in favour of, thus encountering hostility from other parties. The most widespread opinion among us idonei is that, whatever the reasons are, there was the need of sacrificing a category of teachers, and we were chosen to be the ones to be sacrificed. The government is going to launch a new competitive exam for aspiring teachers by the end of 2015; but wait, why should they search for new teachers, if they have got us? We have passed a competitive exam already! The answer is that both public and private universities have been training aspiring teachers (who are given a teaching qualification at the end of the course: I am also one of them, too) for the last three years, and there is a supposed huge money flow generated from these university courses which government does not seem to be willing to stop.
If the School Bill passes without amendments, idonei will have to enroll to a new competitive exam, study again for a whole year while we are also working full-time and managing families (or simply trying to have a personal life). We will have to cross our fingers and hope to pass all the steps again, for the second time. Unless in the meanwhile government changes again, and everything that was looked at as Gospel one minute before is changed again.
© Carmen Fiengo
The representatives of #idoneiconcorsone2012 (Idonei to the 2012-competitive exam), also identified with the hashtag #GMconcorso2012, are available to be interviewed to have the possibility to explain their position in greater detail. They have also created an association which owns and manages the webzine www.newscuola.it, of which the article http://www.newscuola.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=314%3Aidonei-al-concorso-in-ruolo-lo-prevede-il-tu-della-scuola&catid=109&Itemid=571 was one of the sources of information I used to write mine.