A tough year awaits parents and teachers in Italy, as kids return from the summer break. The first issue is whether Italy can provide a decent level of education with ever-lower levels of resources, following reforms pushed through by education minister Letizia Moratti. According to a recent report from the ministry, the country starts the next academic year with 27,000 fewer teachers and 3,600 fewer schools than a decade ago. Even given demographic changes there are now around 40,000 fewer students than 10 years ago the pendulum is clearly swinging back the other way, with 6,700 more children registering in 2005 than in 2004. If the trend continues, the education system will be caught short in just a few years time. Another key concern, this time for parents, is the soaring cost of books, bags and dictionaries. All told, the cost of these everyday essentials has rocketed by 10-15 per cent since last year, says Italian consumer association, Adiconsum. Consumer bodies are now joining forces and calling for prices to be frozen since beleaguered parents face price rises on various fronts, including electricity, petrol and food.