The Standard By Samuel Chan
2019-03-12
【The Standard】Who takes care of your child while at school in the UK?

One major concern for parents of students in UK boarding schools: who looks after my child when they are over 8,000 kilometers away?

The answer is that children have guardians. By UK law, all overseas students under the age of 18 must have guardians to act on behalf of parents. This role may include parents’ meetings, academic matters and, obviously, being there in case of emergencies. 

To get a better idea of what it’s all about, we spoke to Caroline Drewett, the owner of a family-run guardian company called Belgravia. Her family has been hosting international children for 27 years.

What should parents consider when they are choosing a guardian company?

Guardian companies should be your eyes and ears in your absence. They ensure that your child is well looked after, safe, and able to fully focus on their school life. Think about what is most important to you as a family and make sure the company can fulfill all your requirements. If you have family members already in the UK then some companies offer a lighter service with lower fees. Others offer complete care packages that cover everything.

We try to ensure we are as transparent as possible, and that is something to be aware of when choosing a company. Hidden fees are unfortunately very common, so it’s worth asking about the extras that parents can expect before signing on the dotted line.

How does a company ensure that they are using caring, reliable host families?

All companies should be personally inspecting each home and meeting every member of a host family before allowing any child to stay there. 

All family members should also have enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks, to guarantee the safety of every child. 

We personally visit each host family to ensure that their standards remain extremely high throughout the year. The better guardianship companies also give the host families extensive information and training. It must be daunting for children to meet their host family for the first time. What should they expect?

We hand-pick all our host families to make sure they will be warm, friendly, and welcoming. We even ask each child what their favorite meal is so that the host family can prepare it for them on their first evening. 

Children can expect a few cultural differences too. 

Since British homes are often larger than those in Hong Kong, children will often have their own bedroom and a large garden to play and relax in. There are also lots of home-cooked dinners eaten around the table. This daily, family occasion is a lovely time to get to know each other and to start forming life-long friendships.

What would happen if parents had any issues with the host family or the guardian company? 

Any issues with hosts should be directed straight back to the company. We recommend this to make sure the issue isn’t simply miscommunication. If the issue persists, speak to the company’s head office. 

Remember that they are working for you and your child. They should be enhancing the school experience and keeping your child safe. As soon as they cease to offer the service that has been paid for, we suggest looking elsewhere. There are a number of companies to choose from, so not getting the service you have signed up for is inexcusable. 

Our parents are fortunate because if they ever have an issue they can visit us in our Hong Kong office. We can work things out in person and ensure that the service they receive is always what they expect.

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