The Bright World guardianship programme is operated and organised centrally from our Head Office in Sussex. Many parts of the programme are best managed by a team specialising in administration and customer care. It is a formula that has worked very well for us over the last twenty one years.
With students under our guardianship at schools across the UK, it is also important that we have ground-level, face to face support in each guardianship area. Our team of Local Coordinators, or Bright World Buddies, as they are known by our students, fulfil this role and are an integral part of our service. They are able to offer one-to-one support and a mentor service to our students.
An important element of safeguarding and child protection is to allow children space to talk and to give them a voice. They should feel they have someone independent from the school who they can talk to about worries, no matter how small.
Our aim is for students to feel they can trust their Bright World Buddy and tell them if they have any issues at school for example homesickness or a falling out with a friend – things that can genuinely affect their mood and experience of living and learning in the UK. Our Bright World Buddies know all of the schools in their area very well and have established lines of communication with key members of staff. They are experienced at helping students with all manner of issues and will know who to speak to to help sort things out.
Buddies will visit students during the first few days of term to settle them in if their parents have not been able to come with them. Parents’ Evenings are traditionally always attended in person by one or both parents for UK students, so often international students feel different if their parents are not there too. Bright World Buddies can attend Parents' Evenings and offer support to students. They then convey important information and teacher feedback to parents who may also feel they are missing out by not being there.
Throughout the year, Buddies are on hand to attend school meetings or events and regularly catch up with students to see how the year is going. We find that students engage with their Bright World Buddy almost immediately and keep in touch regularly throughout the year which makes a big difference to them.
Bright World Buddies will actively contact students after they have stayed with a host family. They will go through a series of questions with them and make sure they were looked after well, felt comfortable and were happy and looking forward to going back to their family for their next holiday.
We usually find that students are well matched with their host family by our Accommodation Team. It is really important to us that students feel they can tell their Buddy if they didn’t enjoy their host family stay, so we can understand why and get it right next time.
As well as the all-important student care offered by Bright World Buddies, our Local Coordinators also play a vital role in the host family recruitment process. They visit our host families, conduct a face-to-face interview with them and inspect their property to make sure it is safe and comfortable for our students. An important part of their job is to conduct ID checks for the DBS police checks we undertake on all members of the family over 16 years of age. Families are revisited and respected annually to make sure the standards are remaining high.
The main question we ask our Local Coordinators is – 'Would you be happy for your child to stay at this host family?' The only correct answer is YES with no hesitation. They are employed because of their high and exacting standards so we trust their judgment on this.
It is important that school houseparents and registrars get to meet representatives of Bright World and understand how we run our programme and keep up to date with all our news. This is why our Local Coordinators work hard to build relationships with their local schools and keep in touch with regular updates.
As a Bright World Buddy, I endeavour to be the friendly, approachable and readily available person students can turn to. For me student’s wellbeing is always at the forefront of my mind. When students first arrive at school, they can naturally be quite nervous, shy and apprehensive. I see them a few weeks later and they have adjusted to their new environment, formed friendships, are happy and thriving at school.
For me there is nothing more rewarding then witnessing students come out of their shell and grow in confidence. I look forward to my regular phone calls with students so I can hear all their news. I also enjoy attending parent teacher meetings as I get to hear all the lovely, positive comments about students in our care which I can then report back to parents.
Seeing the immense pride on students faces when discussing their academic achievements and acknowledging their hard work and effort, is truly wonderful.