New minimum standards for boarding schools – view from the Guardianship sector…
“Key commercial organisations in the sector agree that closer collaboration will be needed between schools and guardians once the new standards are in place”
The Department for Education’s updated National Minimum Standards for Boarding Schools will come into effect from September 5 2022 and apply to boarding schools in England.
The document contains 23 Standards across all areas of governance, including: boarding provision; health and wellbeing; safeguarding & health and safety. One of the major changes of the updated NMS is a new standard dedicated to educational guardians.
Key aspects of Standard 22 – Educational Guardians include:
22.3 Whether an educational guardian is appointed by the school or a parent/carer the school takes appropriate steps to ensure that the guardianship arrangement is promoting the welfare, physical wellbeing and emotional wellbeing of the boarder.
22.4 Any concerns about an educational guardianship arrangement should be acted upon immediately and referred to any relevant agencies.
22.5 Under no circumstances should school staff be appointed as an educational guardian for boarders.
So what are the views of leading organisations operating within the Guardianship market?
From organisations that have been championing for change to the existing guidelines there has been a positive response. “AEGIS has been lobbying for greater protection of international students for many years and to have its own section in the standards is a great leap forward for the guardianship sector and for the protection of international students,” says Adam Lubbock, chair of Trustees at AEGIS.
Ammy Davies-Potter, director of Guardianship and Inclusion at BSA highlights that, “schools will also benefit from the added clarity on their responsibilities in relation to guardianship which they will be required to demonstrate they are meeting when inspected”.
Key commercial organisations in the sector agree that closer collaboration will be needed between schools and guardians once the new standards are in place.
“We are well placed to help schools review their current guardianship policies recognising that whether an educational guardian is appointed by the school or a parent/carer the school should take appropriate steps to ensure that the guardianship arrangement is promoting the welfare, physical wellbeing and emotional wellbeing of the boarder,” says Ben Hughes, managing director, Pippa’s Guardians.
Julia Evans, director of Cambridge Guardian Angels also sees other aspects of child care improving as a result of the new Minimum Standards.
She highlights that outside of the specific section on Guardianship, the clarification of roles and responsibilities regarding 11.2 transportation and 23.1 lodgings will also help improve the overall safety and wellbeing of students. “Together, these changes should ensure good care of the child outside school, and smooth transitions between airport, school, and homestay,” she explains.
From an international parent’s perspective the new National Minimum Standards should ensure that greater emphasis is placed on the role of the Guardian. In too many cases the role has not been explained to parents early enough in the recruitment process. Now the new standards are assigning the overall responsibility for child welfare, while the child is in the UK, to schools, there will be increased focus on making sure the role is suitably explained and the role filled by an appropriate, responsible adult before the child starts studying in the UK.
This should be good news overall for accredited guardianships as there should be much less risk for schools working with accredited guardianships rather than less formalised/ ad hoc solutions that may have been accepted in the past. This may be more expensive for families compared to using a family member or friend as a local guardian, but should give parents confidence that their child will be cared for to the highest possible safeguarding and welfare standards both in and out of school.
As Lubbock concludes; “I would urge schools, agents and guardians to work more closely together to ensure that appropriate guardianship arrangements are understood by parents at the start of the admissions journey.
“Working together, alongside the updated NMS, will make a difference and hopefully prevent concerning and inappropriate educational guardian arrangements that provide risk. The safeguarding considerations around International students when outside the school gates is such an important area that boarding schools need to get right.”
About the author: Pat Moores is the director and co-founder of UK Education Guide.