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Safeguarding Advice for Overseas Boarding School Parents by Fiona Lee, Safeguarding Expert

By admin April 16, 2020

All children deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential in life.  So how can parents overseas be sure that their children are safe whilst living and being educated in the UK?  I’ve been writing and delivering safeguarding courses for many years and I believe that it is vital for parents of international students to understand why independent accredited guardianship is so important to keeping their children safe.

 “I know that AEGIS’s goal is to raise awareness of the quality of guardianship organisations and I, as a parent and a professional, would only place my child in the care of a guardianship organisation if they were accredited by AEGIS.”

Current UK safeguarding legislation

The UK has some of the best legislation and guidance to safeguard and protect children in the world. 

Children need to feel valued and supported by a network of professionals to protect them from harm and help promote their wellbeing. 

I believe that staying healthy, staying safe and receiving good education are key ingredients to help children to reach their full potential.
The majority of UK boarding schools require parents of international students to appoint a UK guardian to accept responsibility for the child and provide a place to live during school holidays or during times of illness.  So how can you as a parent overseas be sure that your child is safe whilst living and being educated in the UK?
There is no legal requirement in the UK for guardianship organisations to be accredited but it is considered best practice.  Sadly, not all independent schools recommend using an accredited guardian, although many schools will comply with the minimum safeguarding standards.  Not all boarding schools with international students are aware of what their students are doing at the weekends and holidays. 

What does it mean to be accredited and why is it important? 

Accreditation is crucial for any organisation in any field.  The stamp of approval from an impartial, external governing body assures that the organisation under scrutiny is doing things properly. 
When parents place their children with an organisation for guardianship and education, it is crucial they have safeguarding policies and procedures in place that are being followed.  This includes having up to date safeguarding training for all staff employed by the organisation.  Unfortunately, individuals who have an unhealthy interest in children will do whatever they can to look for gaps and weaknesses in compliance with legislation and guidance. 

How do you know the organisation is complying with their safeguarding responsibilities? 

Parents need to conduct due diligence and ask who(m) inspects the organisation to ensure the correct steps are being followed to keep children safe.  Any recommendations of the inspection should be taken forward, and this might include ensuring all staff receive up to date safeguarding training.

Independent accredited scrutiny is key to ensuring safeguarding arrangements within the organisation are being met. 

One of the roles of a guardianship company is to ensure the right host family is provided for international students in their care during the times when the students are away from school because of holidays or illness.  This comes with huge responsibility; it is therefore crucial that guardianship companies are independently inspected and accredited.
Many schools insist that an international student has an AEGIS accredited guardian.  AEGIS inspections are led by independent, experienced inspectors who will scrutinise practices, interview staff and students in the care of the guardianship company.  If the guardianship organisation meets the requirements it becomes a fully accredited member of AEGIS and is re-inspected every four years across a thorough accreditation process and assessment framework.

Safeguarding practices

Sadly, in my previous career, when I was the lead investigator for child abuse, I found that in some organisations, safeguarding practices were not always followed correctly.  There are many reasons such as poor or no safeguarding training provided for staff, failing to share information with key safeguarding partners when a concern is recognised, poor safer recruitment processes, and failure to audit processes and implement learning from serious case reviews when children elsewhere in the UK have been seriously harmed due to a failing of one or more organisation.

Parents should ask questions

I believe that parents should challenge independently accredited guardianship companies.  Some of the key questions to ask are to ensure safeguarding policies and procedures are up to date and being followed, that staff are trained to a high standard when it comes to safeguarding, and that safe recruitment of staff within the organisation is robustly adhered to.
There are many other areas that will be scrutinised but to have this independence reassures me, as a safeguarding trainer and consultant, that they are actually doing the right things to safeguard and protect children in their care.
I had the great pleasure quite a few years ago to meet Yasemin Wigglesworth the Executive Officer for AEGIS whilst delivering safeguarding training specific to International Students and firmly believe AEGIS provides a crucial role in providing independent  accredited inspection of guardianship organisations. I know that AEGIS’s goal is to raise awareness of the quality of guardianship organisations and I, as a parent and a professional, would only place my child in the care of a guardianship organisation if they were accredited by AEGIS.
I have been writing and delivering safeguarding courses for many years and am proud to always receive good feedback.  I believe that this is partly due to my previous practical experience of being a child abuse investigator.  I think that it is crucial to train people correctly to know how to recognise and respond to safeguarding concerns, my moto being “help them do the right things to do things right.”  My training offers the opportunity to learn through discussion and explore policy and decision-making in a supportive environment to empower staff and organisations with confidence.  Please visit my website to find out more: https://safe-guarding.co/
Fiona Lee has 24 years of experience in safeguarding children and adults working with clients in the private, public and voluntary sectors across the UK. She is a highly qualified trainer supported by associates who are specialists in safeguarding children and adults in Health, Education, Social Care and the Police. Since starting her own business in 2015, Fiona has written and delivered a variety of safeguarding children and adult courses all over the country to a huge variety of agencies, inclusive of health, education, police, charities, volunteer sector, sports associations, Foster care agencies, safeguarding Children Boards, Safeguarding Adults Boards, Housing Associations, etc.  She has also provided consultancy advice to companies including of reviewing and writing safeguarding policies and procedures.