According to Robin Fletcher, chief executive at the Boarding Schools’ Association, a review of the Department for Education’s minimum standards for boarding schools includes a section requiring schools “to do more” and there will be inspections to ensure schools comply.
“We think that more emphasis will be placed on the schools”
“At the moment, schools do not have to get involved directly in [the] guardianship area, and a lot of schools do not, and leave it to parents to get a guardian. Not all schools even recommend using an AEGIS accredited guardian,” he told delegates at the British Association of Independent Schools with International Students conference in Birmingham.
Although schools comply with regulation under current minimum requirements, it is not “completely unheard of” for schools to be unaware of where students are during holidays or weekends.
Because schools sponsor students’ Tier 4 visa, the Home Office dictates that they are responsible for students while they remain in the country.
According to AEGIS, guardians “act on behalf of the parents, helping the student adapt to their new life… [and] suitable homestay accommodation is arranged by the guardian during holidays.”
Lana Foster, managing director of Bright World, an AEGIS accredited UK boarding school guardianship service, explained that “best practice dictates that a guardian should be independent from the school”.
“Maintaining up-to-date screening and quality control of the family and facilities is a full time job and one that, in my opinion, should be done by a dedicated company who do this as one of their core activities,” she noted.
“Getting the host family right for students is a huge undertaking and necessitates different options in different locations and the ability to replace a host family should they fall ill or if the student is not happy there.”
Guardianship organisation also offer students the opportunity to feedback on their experience at a host family “without embarrassment and with the confidence that they will be listened to”.
“We think that more emphasis will be placed on the schools needing to take responsibility for ensuring good, regulated guardianship for their students,” Foster said of the expected new standards.
“In the absence of a reliable family friend living in the UK, we believe that the best choice for parents is an AEGIS accredited guardian from an organisation who follows a strict safeguarding framework and has passed a rigorous inspection process,” she added.
The minimum standards are expected to be released later this year.