When pupils living overseas apply to a boarding school in the UK, they will be asked to nominate a guardian who resides in the UK and is over 25 years old. This is not only good practice but of high importance. Some families may use a relative or family friend, but parents may consider engaging the services of a professional guardianship company. What, therefore, makes a good guardian? Ben Hughes, owner of Pippa’s Guardians, tells us.
Good guardianship companies will prioritise strong communication links between the school, the child, the parents and the host family. Furthermore, of utmost importance is the environment of the host family – who will offer the overseas student a warm welcome and a ‘home away from home’ during exeat (leave out) weekends, half-terms and, perhaps even during longer holidays too. We always ensure that the requisite disclosure & barring service (DBS) checks have been done and will undertake thorough referencing to ensure the host family is suitable. It is crucial that the host family has been visited in person to discuss the high expectations required by professional guardianship companies. As a member of AEGIS, the Association for the Education and Guardianship of International Students, we comply with codes of practice and inform our host families of these standards. An example would be that no more than 3 pupils should be cared for at any one time by a host family. By visiting the host family, we are also in a good position to ‘match’ the student to the family, giving an optimal chance that both parties will be compatible and the student will be happy during breaks from school.
Safeguarding is a vital service of good guardianship. We must ensure safe and efficient travel to and from any UK airports, liaise with the school, parents and pupil about logistics so that all parties are aware of the pupil’s movements. There should be an emergency phone number that is manned 24/7, thus providing cover at any time for issues that may arise at any time and to allow practical help and support to be provided as necessary.
The UK is a large country, so good guardianship companies will have a representative that is available to the pupil and lives close to the school. The representative can respond quickly as needs arise, particularly if there are problems or issues of concern. We also suggest that new pupils (and their family if present) are met when they first arrive in the UK or at their new school and introduced to their host family. Professional guardians can also help pupils to open a bank account, buy school uniform or sports equipment, acquire a mobile phone and prepare for the first day of term.
The Link Between
A good guardian will visit their pupils regularly whilst at school to find out how they are getting on, both in terms of academics and also pastorally. They can be a listening and supportive ear to students trying to settle and find their feet in a new environment, culture and country. Being genuinely interested in the wellbeing, development, progress and care of their students is crucial to being a good guardian. As the communication link between the school and the pupil’s family, it is expected that a guardian will report back to parents on matters such as the progress and contentment of their child, together with any concerns or worries that need addressing. A guardian should, if required, be available to attend parent teacher meetings on behalf of parents and provide full feedback.
All good guardians will put their students’ best interests at the forefront, keeping them safe, happy and able to fulfil their aspirations whilst in the UK, both academically and pastorally. Pippa’s Guardians are proud to have received recognition for doing so through our accreditation with AEGIS.