The International School Palermo has IB Accreditation



       We are very pleased to announce that CEI International School Palermo (ISP) has achieved IB accreditation (International Baccalaureate). As parents of one of the younger students attending the school, we were already sure of the excellent level of education provided by the school. As far as we are concerned this confirmed the outstanding work by teachers, administrators, and the entire staff of the school.

The International School Palermo is a department in a long established Jesuit Italian school, Centro Educativo Ignaziano. The IB model was chosen as it best fit the vision of the school and its parents. Most of the families in our school are Sicilian and they hope that their children will be able to leave our school with the prestigious IB Diploma. This diploma will allow them to study at universities all around the world, equipping them with skills, knowledge and mindset for our ever-changing world.

AnneA key person in the ISP’s (International School Palermo) accreditation process has been Mrs Anne Laurenson, the Principal and the soul of the School. Principal Anne Laurenson describes the journey to IB accreditation as being very difficult but rewarding. Last week we went to meet her and asked for some insight and background about the ISP and the accreditation achieved by the school.

Mrs Laurenson, regarding the ISP: please tell us how the pursuit of the ISP began.
“The school was founded in 2008 in response to local demand from internationally minded parents looking for suitable provision for their children. Some of these founding parents had links with other International Baccalaureate World Schools and collaboration began which resulted in the formation of CEI International School Palermo. There are currently 3,500 IB World Schools in 143 countries around the world, and we have just added to that number.”

Int1How many classes did you have in the first year of the ISP and how did it evolve?
“We started with two classes, Kindergarten and Transition. There were 22 children, two teachers and a classroom assistant. Currently the school has provision for students from Pre Kindergarten (age 2 and a half) to Grade 5 (age 9), following the IB PYP model. We have over 75 children, eight teachers, four teaching assistants, a principal and upper and lower school coordinators of the program. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication on the part of founding parents and joining staff”.

So what is the complete curriculum program the ISP is working on?
“In fact, the IB Primary Years Program (PYP) is designed for students aged 3 to 12 years of age. Primary School will finish at the end of Grade 6. CEI International Secondary School is already in the planning, aiming to follow the prestigious Cambridge International Programme to age 16. Students will then return to the IB programme for grades 12 and 13”.

Were you here since the beginning?
“I came in the second year, 2009. At that time, the two teachers from the first year had left so we started with brand new teaching staff. Previously, I was working as Vice Principal in an international school in Shanghai with over 1200 children. Back in the UK, my mother and my husband’s father had health problems so we decided to return to Europe. Allan, my husband, who also teaches in the School, found this opportunity here in Palermo and we just applied and got the job. It was really lucky as the job only arose because an American teacher dropped out. I think it was meant to be. So here we are, after the Canary Islands, Hong Kong and Shanghai, we now feel that Palermo could be our place to stay long term”.

IBHow difficult has been for the school to reach the IB accreditation?
“The ISP took the minimum of three years to gain accreditation for the programme and gained many commendations from the IB visiting inspection team. The high calibre of this programme means the accreditation demands are vigorous and far-reaching. The final inspection included policy review, curriculum review, meetings with parents and children, observations of teaching and learning and an extensive five-year action plan”.

Does that mean that the hard work devoted to gaining accreditation needs to continue?
“Exactly. We have been working so hard for this, sometimes I had sleepless nights filling in paper work and preparing for the visit so we could get the stamp. But, it doesn’t last forever, it needs to be renewed, they will return in 5-years time: part of us getting the stamp is to show them an action plan: ‘what we intend to do for the next 5 years’. When they come back in 5 years from now, they go through our action plan and make sure we have achieved what we planned. So the hard work continues in order for us to maintain our international standards”.

up-upHow does the IB Programme benefit our children?
“Our children are happy, confident thinkers, willing to try new things and they are quickly becoming bilingual. The most significant and distinctive feature of the IB Primary Years Programme is the six transdisciplinary themes: Who we are, Where we are in place and time, How we express ourselves, How the world Works, How we organize ourselves and Sharing the planet. 

These themes provide IB World Schools with the opportunity to incorporate local and global issues into the curriculum and effectively allow students to “step up” beyond the confines of learning within six subject areas: language, math, science, social studies, arts, personal social and physical education”.

In the meeting, Mrs. Maria Grazia Gitto, one of the school’s invaluable bilingual classroom assistants, was also present, and we asked her to identify the ultimate aim of the school, both for the community and for a city like Palermo.
mac2‘’We need something better, something open to the world, a way to attract people, politicians, sports men; they look for something special for their children. Very often – she continued – these children will leave Sicily and live abroad: this school will provide a good mother tongue level of language, which will help them to succeed in their various career.’’

If that same question were asked of me, as a parent, I’d have answered that deep in my heart, I hope my children will use their knowledge and proficient level of English to remain in Sicily and contribute to the redemption of this land. I think we should try to instill that message into our children at a young age.

The world is their oyster but the hope is for them to appreciate and love their heritage, remaining here to bring up their own families with similar values.

The economy of Sicily can be expanded and the island made a better place if we can improve communication with the rest of the world. We need to attract investors, artists, ordinary people who decide to come and live in Sicily. It’s a land that deserves to be back in the centre of Mediterranean commerce and affairs. The International School, which is almost entirely taught in English, is key to this process.
The meeting was very agreeable and you could read on everybody’s faces at school, the joy of having reached this high standard that has repaid for years of sacrifices. We take the opportunity, on behalf of all the parents, to thank Padre Beneduce, Mrs. Anne Laurenson, her husband and teacher Allan, all the teachers and staff that keep up the good work and promote this magnificent reality.


Nowadays I enjoy walking to the school with the other parents, watching our kids line up, singing in English on the way to class. The entire setting is nice, located between Villa Trabia and the English Gardens. There are plenty of facilities too and they can practise all sort of sports outdoor.

Before starting our working day, we enjoy sitting in the lovely garden inside the school grounds, at the café run for decades by Pippo and his family. He prepares fabulous ‘ristrettos’ and often he calls us by the name of our kids, who in turn go there during break times or after school, accompanied by chatty mothers sitting at the tables under an already warm sun.

seaI hope this article will deliver a ”message in a bottle”, reaching and convincing at least one person or a couple of parents to come to Sicily and raise their kids near the sea, with the good weather and genuine food … at the International School of Palermo. The ristretto at Pippo’s bar is on me.

Giovanni Morreale

May 09, 2013     

Giovanni Morreale
Giovanni Morreale
I would define myself an "eclectic" mind, trying, with all my hearth and soul to realize my dreams, which often gravitate around my family and my land, Sicily. Professionally, I am a Civili Engineer, seconded to the IT world of Cyber Security, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence.

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  1. Fantastico, Giovanni!! I went to an international school in Paris for a year when I was young, and I always remember it as the highlight of my education. I hope the Palermo school starts attracting more non-Sicilian students, too.

    • Hi Jann,
      I wish I would have had the chance to do it too. I guess that is way after the university I felt the desire to travel no-stop.
      YES, the hope is also for some non-Sicilian students to join our community .. that would be really fantastic.

  2. Outstanding article. I’ve visited many of these schools. Their effectiveness,of course, is influenced by the quality and motivation of students and staff. For the most part,however, they offer a comprehensive education. Bravo! Gio, this was an enlightening piece.
    F. Anthony D’Alessandro, Celebration, Florida

  3. This sounds like an excellent and ambitious project. As F.Anthony D’Alessandro says it all depends on the quality of teaching and students’ motivation which are paramount.

    In my experience of teaching in a Liceo Linguistico, bi-lingualism in English and Italian gives students ‘una marcia in più’ – an added skill – and certainly opens up horizons allowing students to break away from provincialism which tends to bog a lot of people down.

    Open mindedness, a healthy curiosity and fluency in English will give these students a chance to travel and discover how the rest of the world lives. But don’t worry Giovanni, they will soon be dragging their suitcases back to Sicily to settle when they realise that the weather, food and family are like nothing else in the world and, more importantly, that their country needs them!!

    • Hi Marian,
      apparently, one of the teacher of the ISP is living in Cefalu’ and commuting to Palermo. It would be nice for both of you to get together for a coffee. I’ll try to put you in contact 🙂

  4. This is really excellent news. An internationally consistent approach to education is so important as the world shrinks and it will serve these students very well in their futures. The method of teaching in English is also excellent. Sicilians need to be able to compete on a level playing field with English speaking graduates from all over the world and having proficiency in two languages develops skills they will benefit from forever. Ultimately, this new accreditation strengthens SIcily as a whole. It is a real positive note. Bravi.

  5. As an educator, I look with pride to schools that realize the importance of embracing the international and cultural differences and opportunities for our school-aged children. The world becomes smaller by the moment and the ability to communicate effectively, to problem solve and to utilize critical thinking skills gives these international students a step-up in comparison to their counterparts.

    Another integral part of these 21st century skills is collaboration. I would be pleased to set up a Skype discussion between my students (at an all-female Catholic school grades 6-12) with the students at the CEI International School in Palermo. The only difficulty, however, is the time difference. The Sicilian day ends at 13:00, which translates to “barely out of bed” in American time.

    Best wishes to you all!

    • Hi Mia,
      this is a fantastic idea. I will ask the Principal if our kids can stay longer after school and set up a Skype meeting between our schools!! Outstanding!!

    • Dear Mia,

      I am the Principal of ISP. Thank you for your offer for collaboration between our schools, I will get your email from Giovanni!

  6. Thanks for publishing the news, Giovanni. As you know, my daughter is now finishing 3rd grade at the school, and I am delighted to see how she is growing up truly bilingual. Anne and her staff worked extremely hard for accreditation and we are all very proud of this international recognition. Our children can now transfer easily into any IB school in the world, and I am enthusiastic about the emphasis the Primary Years Programme puts on becoming good citizens, not just good students. I don’t think there is any other school in all of Sicily where our children could get such personalised attention from qualified instructors who are native speakers of English, plus daily Italian lessons that keep the kids on a par with the national standards, throughout the year. And the kids love school!

  7. Hello Giovanni,
    I’m an Italian student now in Master 1, English Linguistics speciality, Lille 3 France.
    I’m writing a dissertation on “Bilingualism in children education”. I just look up on Internet “bilingual school in Sicily” and I found out there is this international school for children.
    I really admire what you and the contributors have done.
    My best wishes for this school!

    • Thanks Danica,
      yes! We are trying our best to give a new pretty face to Sicily! All the best with your dissertation and come to see us in Sicily.

  8. Hi Giovanni,
    Enjoyed reading your article very much! ISP sounds like a wonderful school, and Palermo a very nice place to live! I am a native English speaker from the U.S.A., and am looking for an entry-level TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) position overseas. Do you know if there are opportunities in Palermo for this, or for private tutoring in English? My degree is in Art, with a minor in English. Some of the electives I chose were Linguistics and TESOL courses. Since 2006, I have been a private ELL (English Language Learner) tutor, teaching ages ranging from 6 through 17. I’ve also been a volunteer assistant teacher in ELL classes. Thanks very much for any advice you can give me! Oh, almost forgot! …I chose Italian for my language requirement while working on my degree. Sadly, though, I haven’t had much opportunity for practice since graduation.

    • Hi Suzanne,
      sorry for the late answer. You can always try with IB Palermo but I supposed they need IB experience on the curriculum.. There are other schools though where they teach English to people. Try to google “Scuole Inglese Palermo” – Scuole Inglese Catania” etc – They appreciate mother tongues. Also, you can contact Gary (write to him to one of his posts), I think he knows schools where to teach English.
      I’ll keep you posted.

  9. Dear Giovanni,
    I was so interested to read your article and we would like to ask many questions regarding the school.Could you please send me the contact details of the head teacher.
    Many thanks,


  10. Does your school accept American students, for us families that have relocated to the Palermo area? If not do you know of any that do which are near Palermo?

  11. Ciao Giovanni,
    we are from Slovenia and we intend to live in Sicily. If all goes according to plan, that will be already next year. We have two kids (boy 3,5 years and girl 6 years old). We are really interested for our children to visit your school. If there is any chanse for this, I would like to pleas you for direct contact, so that we can get more informations.
    Thanks and greetings from Slovenia!

    • Very good news Natasa. I will send a direct contact by email. Greeting back from Sunny Sicily!! Hope you meet you soon for a coffee at Pippo bar.

  12. Hi Giovanni,
    I really enjoyed your article and made me reallly happy to read about this school. My husband is from Bagheria in Sicily and we are thinking to move to his home town. We have a 4 years old son (by the way his name is Giovanni too) and we are looking for a good school for him. He is in the spectrum for Autism. I was wondering if you know if there is any resorces for special needs children provided by the school. Thanks!

    We live now in Florida, US and we are planning to move to Bagheria in 3 months.

    • Hi Michelle,
      I’m happy to help you with some info. Bagheria is a city not far from Palermo, but to be fair, it would take you sometime to drive to the ISP every morning with the traffic jam. You need to test by yourself. The school is a private school and he has a lot of facilities, you could definitely ask if they provide “special” resources for Gio?! Best this is to visit the school once you are here. I’ll introduce you. Regarding the spectrum of Autism, I heard this center is very famous (internationally): it’s in Erice (Trapani province). Also in Palermo there are many resources and sometime are free: have a look for example at this:
      Hope to further help and I’m looking forward to meeting you. I send you my private email.

  13. Good morning
    We are a family of 5 thinking to reside in Sicily. My 2 older daughter’s already attend a private school here in Malta and they speak only English. My daughter’s ages are 6 years 5 years and a baby of 2 months. Can they be part of your school? What will happen after grade 5 do they stay in the same school like here?
    I would like to have some more information regarding the matter before we continue with this new journey.
    Besr Regards
    Dorianne Fenech

    • Hi Dorianne! Sure! They can be part of the ISP Palermo. My two kids are now 10 and 5, so grade 6 and grade 1 (as from September). ISP Palermo will cover all high school till the IB Diploma. I’ll contact you off line. I’m happy to help you or put you in contact with the ISP. Bests,

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