Friends Reunited As Pupils Head To Italy

7th June 2024

Pupils at Highfield and Brookham have further strengthened their links with a school in Italy – meeting some old friends along the way.

Nine children, all academic scholars, spent a week at Istituto Comprensivo di Fontanellato e Fontevivo as part of an exchange programme which has been running since 2018.

The visit gave the English children the opportunity to get reacquainted with some of their Italian counterparts who have spent time at Highfield and Brookham over the past few years, most recently last September. Two more Italian children will head to Liphook again at the start of the autumn term.

Fontanellato, an historic town north-west of the city of Parma in northern Italy, is no random choice for the school exchange as it has a big wartime link to the Mills family, owners of Highfield and Brookham School.

Former Headmaster Peter Mills, father of current chairman Bill Mills, escaped from a German prisoner of war camp in Fontanellato in 1943 with a little help from locals, guards and a kindly camp commandant, making his way along a route through the Apennines known as the ‘Freedom Trail’ after an armistice between the Allies and Italy which Germany refused to recognise.

Now, in peacetime, sections of the Freedom Trail are walked only by people keen to gain an understanding of a significant piece of history, such as the academic scholars from Highfield and Brookham.

While in Italy, the scholars took in the wonderful sights and sounds of the Parma region, including time spent in and out of the classroom with their hosts, a tour of the 12th Century Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and a trip to a cheese factory where the world-famous Parmigiano Reggiano is produced.

The children then ventured 90 minutes north-west to the vibrant city of Milan, home to the impressive Duomo Cathedral, the ornate Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and the inspirational Leonardo da Vinci Museum, named in honour of the legendary artist and inventor.

Suzannah Cryer, Head of Highfield and Brookham, said: “We have such a wonderful relationship with our friends from Fontanellato, and it’s heartening to know that the links between our two schools are as strong as ever.

“For our children to be reunited with friends that they made during their time with us in Liphook is incredibly special and adds so much to what is always an enriching and enlightening trip.”

And she added: “We are already looking forward to welcoming two more Italian children next September for the next chapter of this lovely story.”