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.
A 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.”
How 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”.
How 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”.
How 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.
‘’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.
I 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.
May 09, 2013