Bright World has been accredited by AEGIS (The Association for the Education and Guardianship of International Students) since 2006. In an unregulated industry with no other guidance on good practice when offering guardianship services, we saw the benefits early on of joining this unique organisation.
As a long-standing supporter and ambassador for AEGIS, Lana Foster is now immensely proud, and excited, to have been selected as one of the new Trustees of the AEGIS board.
The Board of Trustees is ultimately responsible for;
It is all about standards - defining them, ensuring they are met and revising them as times change.
Without AEGIS, guardianship would have no framework at all within which to work. Guardianship organisations who do not have access to the carefully worked out code of practice and standards are surely not able to establish what standards should be maintained.
With a clear list of obligations and standards to meet, we are able to write our policies, create our contracts and documents and train our Head Office staff and Local Coordinators and host family inspectors on what criteria we follow and what standards we maintain.
The AEGIS framework of guidelines is constantly being updated as times changes and standards improve.
One example of this is a recent marker on the number of students a host family should host. AEGIS states that a host family should not, unless there are extenuating circumstances, host more than 3 students at any time.
This is to ensure proper supervision and to avoid host families acting as 'businesses' where money is the main incentive. We have heard horror stories of guardianship companies 'packing in' far too many students in one household and this rule is there to avoid that.
It is very tempting when you are short of host family accommodation, and host families let you down last minute, to break this 3 student rule. Being accountable to AEGIS stops this happening at Bright World.
We would only ever put 4 students in a family after much discussion, if there were exceptional circumstances such as siblings insisting on being together, young students wanting company etc. However, I can well imagine that companies who are not being inspected or judged would be more likely to place high numbers of students in host families if needed. This is because no-one is telling them not to. They have no external organisation setting rules and standards for them.
Another example of changes made over time is the standard that AEGIS now set for host family inspections. When we started Bright World 20 years ago, there was no such thing as a DBS check (police check). We would visit the host family to make sure the house was nice and suitable for students but we had no checklist to follow, we simply made it up as we felt fit.
Now with AEGIS setting out the criteria we need to follow, not only does every member of the family who is 16 or older need to be DBS checked, the house insurance, gas certificates and boiler checks are validated and we even check there is a working carbon monoxide and fire and smoke alarm. We would not have thought of all of these important health and safety measures had we not had the guidance of AEGIS.
We wonder if non-accredted companies or individuals have thought of this an uphold these standards? No-one knows because there is no-one to check them...
Schools who want good guardianship for their students can also join AEGIS as members. This helps to bring together schools and guardianship providers. The training workshops and conferences that AEGIS organises and attends means that there is an on-going conversation about making sure we work together to ensure good guardianship throughout the school year, not just when students are in school.
Over the past 19 years, we have found this forum for best practice to be an absolutely invaluable support to our job of safeguarding overseas children at UK boarding schools.
Many people think that a guardian is just there to offer a host family and travel service and a 24 hour emergency contact for the overseas parent. This is true and regular contact with parents on these matters is an important part of what we do. However, there is a lot more to it than that and parents should know that choosing an AEGIS guardian would offer them additional peace of mind.
The job of AEGIS is to promote the welfare of international students and maintain high standards that measure up to those set by schools themselves. What we do goes a lot deeper than many people think.