The Hurst Community school has been part of an exchange link with the Frederico de Roberto school in Zafferana, Sicily, halfway up the slopes of Mount Etna, since 1992. Pupils from Years 7 and 8 spend a week with local families every two years. "It's great for the children to learn about a different culture," says deputy head Chris Starkey.
They adapt to their new surroundings quickly. "They get very attached in a very short time," says Mrs Starkey. "There are always floods of tears when the coach draws away. Some pupils have even been back with their families and stayed with their Sicilian friends." But the trip has an educational purpose: to learn all about volcanoes. "Walking over hot lava, smelling the sulphur - it's an experience of a lifetime," says Mrs Starkey.
SNAPS BY HURST STAFF AND PUPILS
* A guide explains to Years 8 and 9 some of the history behind the Greco-Roman theatre in Taormina
* Walking in the cold waters of the Alcantara Gorge
* Seb Allright with his Sicilian exchange family
* Andrew, Philip, Ross, Amy and Lisa relax in the Med
* The long, long way up Mount Etna!
* Local artisans make ashtrays out of the hot lava