The NMS (National Minimum Standards) for boarding were first introduced in 2002, with the aim of safeguarding the welfare of children accommodated in UK boarding schools. They have been updated several times over the years and the latest edition came into effect on 5th September 2022.
These standards contain revised elements to further safeguard and promote the welfare of children boarding at UK schools. The NMS are used by both Ofsted and the ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate) when inspecting boarding schools.
5th September 2022 was a very proud day for guardianship and for AEGIS. The new Minimum Standards for Boarding for 2022 were published and for the very first time educational guardianship has its own standard – Standard 22. Moreover, AEGIS is referenced within the standard as a recognised organisation for schools to consult and refer to when looking at good practice.
This means that if parents choose an AEGIS-accredited guardian, the school does not need to do any further checks on the arrangements being made for their international students in the school holidays and they know that their welfare is being prioritised at all times, not just when they are in school.
There are 23 standards in the document covering the quality of boarding provision, how schools promote the health and wellbeing of their students, health and safety standards, staffing, and off-site accommodation.
There are also sections on Governance, Boarding Provision, Safeguarding, Boarders Rights, Promoting Positive Behaviour and Relationships and Boarders' Development.
Having a standard specifically for Educational Guardianship, shows great progress in safeguarding students in boarding whose parents live overseas. In the previous standards, guardians were hardly mentioned and only as part of a standard on staffing.
It is encouraging that there is now a standard dedicated to highlighting the importance of good guardianship for those boarders whose parents are not resident in the UK. Schools are clearly now responsible for ensuring that the guardian selected by parents is appropriate and will take good care of their child.
Schools can be reassured that if they recommend Bright World, and/or if parents appoint us as guardian, that we are committed to and follow a strict safer recruitment policy and process for all employees and volunteers. This includes host families and drivers.
Members of staff involved in the recruitment of anyone who is working with Bright World are regularly trained in Safer Recruitment processes. Our systems are set up to ensure that Safer Recruitment processes are always followed.
Schools rarely appoint educational guardians for their students and it is not their responsiblity to do so. It is the overseas parent who appoints a guardian and who has a contract with the them. Where schools do recommend us as their preferred guardianship organisation, they can be reassured that they can monitor the suitablity of the arrangements we make.
Bright World follows the comprehensive AEGIS Quality Standards and schools and parents can, at any time, refer to our Inspection Report.
We welcome feedback from schools that they may hear from their our students and work closely with schools if students would like to change their host family or are not happy with arrangements. Reports and feedback forms we obtain from host families and students are available for schools to view should they wish.
Local Coordinators visit and communicate regularly with our students. Every time they are in touch, they produce Welfare Reports. Any concerns are immediately noted and followed up with the school if we feel this is necessary. Schools are welcome to view these reports at any time. This means that by choosing Bright World as a guardian, we can reassure schools that this standard will be met.
In addition to referring serious concerns to the statutory services, schools opting for Bright World as guardians can also benefit from the support of the AEGIS office who can assist as an intermediary between us to help resolve any issues.
We have measures and policies in place to ensure that we would not allow a member of staff at a school to act as a host family or Local Coordinator for students there.
Where a non-AEGIS guardian is put forward to the school, the school will need to adopt its own policy on how best to make sure the arrangements are sound and the standard is met. They will then need to continue to ensure that the child's welfare is protected throughout the year. A non-AEGIS accredited guardian could be a family friend, an individual offering paid for guardianship and accommodation in their home, or a non-accredited guardianship organisation. The new responsibility to check on these arrangements will cause a lot of extra work for schools.
What was made clear to us during our meeting with DfE was that the AEGIS accreditation standards would certainly satisfy the NMS standard. Where a parent has appointed an AEGIS-accredited guardianship organisation, schools can be assured that no additional checks are required, other than the usual post holiday 'check in' with students, usually carried out by Houseparents.
At Bright World, ensuring these standards are met is ingrained in our ethos. Over the years we have made it our mission to improve our standards of care and our processes have been developed to satisfy the needs of our students and their parents, whilst keeping costs affordable and reasonable.
Bright World has its own Minimum Standards of Care, which we believe go beyond those outlined in the NMS. Our aim is to ensure that each child under our guardianship is treated as an individual and we check up on their experiences with us throughout the academic year.
An important part of our work is to select an appropriate host family for our students during the holidays. It goes without saying that our host families have been carefully screened by us, with DBS checks undertaken on each person in the family who is over 16, plus a rigorous house inspection, repeated each year.
It is really important to us that a student's experience at their host family is a positive one. Our 'independent listener' and reporting and feedback system works well to ensure they have every opportunity to let us know if they are happy or if they have any concerns. Our network of local Bright World Buddies follow up with a Care Plan visit to all of the students in their area, when they stay at a host family for the first time. We also send students an easy to complete, mobile-friendly, feedback form each time they stay with a family. This, combined with working with the school House staff for feedback, makes for a very comprehensive check on welfare and the physical and emotional wellbeing of our students.