What is an education guardian?

UK boarding schools require international families to appoint an education guardian.

If your child’s living at a UK school while you’re resident in another country, you’ll need to meet this criteria before your school application can be completed. It’s a crucial part of the schools’ commitment to safeguarding their international students during their whole UK experience.

After the rigours of the school selection and application, this can feel like an unwelcome additional cost and demand on your time.

But sorting out a UK educational guardian gives you and your child the peace of mind that there’s a reliable plan in place, should any emergency situation arise.

And at CCC, we’ll make sure you know all about it during the process of school selection, so it’s not an unexpected extra.

Role of an education guardian

At this stage, it’s very important to point out that and education, or educational, guardian is different to a legal guardian.

  • Legal guardian: Has the same rights and responsibilities as biological parents. This is why you’ll see some of your many forms asking for the details and signature of ‘Parents/Legal Guardians’. Someone might become a legal guardian, for example, after adopting a child. Many parents name their preferred legal guardians for their children in their will documents. It’s a huge undertaking with a full legal process.
  • Education guardian: Someone appointed by parents to act on their behalf when their child attends a UK boarding school, and they reside in another country. You’ll sometimes see this written as ‘in loco parentis’ – ‘in place of a parent’.

Your education guardian makes all kinds of unexpected or emergency situations much less stressful because they’re physically there to deal with the details.

  • Generally speaking, the role of the educational guardian includes things like:
  • Attending school events and meetings on your behalf
  • Make decisions in emergency medical situations
  • Arrange transport and UK accommodation during school holidays and exeat weekends
  • Provide care and a place to stay in disciplinary situations (suspension or expulsion from school), or illness that can’t be cared for by the school’s onsite medical team

The idea is that your child’s education guardian is there to cover any eventuality when they’re not under their school’s care.

Is this a legal requirement?

As the school fulfils the role of sponsor, the position of guardian can seem to be unnecessary from a legal standpoint. And there isn’t a legal requirement for a guardian in UK law.

But most schools insist on the appointment of guardians for all their international students in order to make sure they’re fully compliant with the UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) rules, as well as meeting safeguarding regulations. If your child starts university when they’re under 18, their university may ask you to appoint a guardian for the same reasons.

Who can be an education guardian?

It’s up to you to appoint the education guardian for your child, as long as they meet the school’s criteria.

Some families are in the fortunate position of having close family or friends that are UK citizens and are able to take on the guardianship role for their children.

At this stage, it’s important to be aware that schools often have a ‘maximum distance’ rule within their guardianship requirements. This means that even if your family member is willing, if they live too far away from the school, they won’t be eligible. Usually, there’s also an age minimum (25+) and university or college accommodation as the address of your guardian won’t be accepted. It’s crucial that you take all your new school’s criteria into account.

Guardianship company

If you don’t have a family member or friend to take on the role, you can hire a guardianship company. A guardianship organisation will find a guardian that’s the best match for your child and family’s requirements. Their services provide different levels of support and can be tailored to suit your family’s specifications.

For example, if you don’t need anywhere for your child to stay when schools are closed, you can opt for a ‘contact’ package. This means that their guardian is in touch with both your child and their school, and are there in case of emergency. Any visits or other services will incur an additional cost.

More all-inclusive arrangements are also available. This is when your education guardian provides somewhere safe for your child to stay in the UK, when they can’t be at school. These ‘homestays’ are designed to be a ‘home from home’ experience for your child. And the vetting procedures and inspections are rigorous.

How to build a successful relationship with your guardian

Karen Pickles, Director of Berkeley Guardians, describes the role of a guardian as being part of a “triangular relationship between the parents/carers, guardian and school.” Everyone’s aim is the same – totally safe, thriving, happy children.

In her vast experience she’s found that the most successful guardian relationships are based on “mutual trust, where we all work together, and there’s give and take on all sides.” Building this kind of relationship with your child’s guardian starts with a conversation where everyone feels heard and understood. Your child’s and family’s requirements are listened to and matched with the correct guardianship service package.

Karen’s main motivator is the fact that she “loves working with international students and their schools, and being involved in the international community.” She uses her huge wealth of experience to ensure a real family-centred approach at Berkeley Guardians. Their dedication to exceptional care for every child is unmistakable.

How do I find an education guardian organisation?

When you’re looking for an education guardian organisation, the best place to start is the Association for the Education & Guardianship of International Students (AEGIS). This charity is “…the only independent, accrediting body in the UK for guardianship organisations and offers a robust, well-established inspection process.”

The AEGIS website has lists of Member schools, Preliminary Accredited, and Gold Standard Accredited Guardianship Organisations that are very easy to navigate. All AEGIS accredited guardianship companies have had a thorough inspection of their business and student care. So you’ve got the reassurance that everything possible is being done to keep your child safe.

Schools’ guardian proximity rules also apply to guardianship organisations, so you’ll usually need to find one in the same location as the school.

We’ll point you in the right direction

Claire Calder Consultancy makes sure you’ve had as smooth a selection process as possible, regarding your child’s school. Part of that is making sure you’re aware of all the school requirements you need to meet. One that often comes as a surprise is the appointment of a UK education guardian. But it’s part of our discussions about choosing a UK boarding school. This removes the element of the unknown, so you can factor it in to your overall costs and aren’t rushed into the decision.

British Boarding School Network approved Agent 2023 - 2024