For our guardianship team, the week leading up to half term is a crucial time for final preparations and checking of arrangements. With hundreds of guardianship students all leaving school on the same day, the pressure is on and the main objective is to ensure all our students reach their destinations in a safe and timely fashion. Whilst all arrangements are planned well in advance, changes are as much inevitable as they are unavoidable.
Our Accommodation Managers work closely with our Guardianship Care Managers, to allocate and match our students with host families months ahead of time and as soon as new students book onto our programme. Reminders are sent to our hosts six weeks prior to the student stay, so as to minimise any host family changes which can be distressing for parents overseas.
Overseas parents are also aware of plans months in advance, receiving a full colour profile of their host family or their airport driver, if they are travelling home for the break. Two weeks before the half term begins, parents are also reminded of what we think their plans will be, so they have the opportunity to tell us if their plans have changed.
With the recent October half term still fresh in their minds, we spoke to our guardianship team to learn more about the common obstacles that can come between them and the perfect half term event.
Despite plans being set, students can and do change their minds. Perhaps they have decided to stay with a friend instead of their Bright World host family or their parents are making a surprise visit to see them in the UK.
This half term was no different, with a number of students changing plans. One of our students due to stay with a Bright World host family was invited to the home of a school friend for a few days during the half term.
“We want the best time to be had, so we say yes, but this leaves us with a lot of work to do” explained Su Warren, Director of Guardianships and Operations.
When describing the actions her team needed to take as a result, Su listed the following:
Host families are crucial to the running of our guardianship programme and we greatly value the relationships we have with our hosts. Our families offer students safe, happy and caring environments, where money is by no means the main reward, with a cultural experience for their own children often taking number one spot.
Bright World families are not contracted to offer a certain number of stays and just as they have to be flexible when our students' plans change, we have to expect that sometimes they may change theirs.
There are various reasons as to why a family may cancel and so it is vital that our accommodation team has alternative, equally qualified families on hand to approach in these situations.
This half term was no exception and when one of our host’s family members fell ill and could no longer host, our Accommodation Managers needed to find a replacement within hours. We understand the anxieties that overseas parents face and so our guardianship care team were quick to present the problem and the solution simultaneously and inform everyone, including the student and their Bright World Buddy.
We are always striving to improve our programme and and are very well organised. We ask host families for their availability for the whole year as we seek to avoid disappointment and lack of continuity for our students. Families can login to our cloud-based portal, Blink, to see all the dates when they may be required to host. This state of the art and innovative system has greatly decreased the number of host family cancellations this year and our host families are more committed than ever.
As guardians, we are often called on to take care of students when they are unwell during the school year, and the week before half term offered no respite for the Guardianship team.
When one of our students showed symptoms of chicken pox, just two days before the break began, we were asked by the school to arrange a solution and did just that.
Unfortunately our student’s host family, due to host on the Friday, was not available to look after him from the Wednesday. Because of our fantastic network of host families, we were able to find a solution quickly, and send the revised details on to the student's parents and school staff.
It is against the law in the UK for any persons under the age of 18 to buy or to drink alcohol in public. Schools will therefore take it extremely seriously if a student is caught with alcohol at school.
Smoking has the same legal age limit as drinking and will be taken just as seriously by UK boarding schools.
In recent years, vaping has become a popular alternative to smoking cigarettes. Many students do not realise that the same restrictions apply, and that is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to be in possession of an e-cigarette or vaping fluids. This has led to a corresponding rise in suspensions for vaping. When one of our students was caught vaping in the run up to half term, a two day suspension was imposed immediately by the school. Leanne and Fi, in our accommodation department, were able to find a family to take care of the student right away.
Despite everything that is thrown their way this October, our guardianship team managed another flawless half term event and our Guardianship Care Managers are already busily finalising the November exeat weekend, with our first flight requests for Christmas due this week.