When schools close for Exeat weekends and half terms all students have to leave and the school boarding houses close. Our guardianship students often opt to go to a host family instead of making the long journey home.
The concept of going to a stranger's home can be a big worry to students and parents and raises many questions. Will they be nice people and take good care of my child? Will they make tasty food and will the house be warm enough? What if my child doesn't like it there?
There are many stages to becoming a host family and so any successful candidates must be happy and willing to share personal details and open their house to our inspectors.
Families must complete a very lengthy application form to start the process. This is then reviewed by our Accommodation team. Many families do not get through this stage; maybe they work full time, are not prepared to collect and drop students off in their own car, or even ask too many questions about money.
We then take two references out on each adult in the family. Occasionally we are not happy with the reference and the process finishes there.
The House Inspection follows and it is thorough. Not only do we inspect the house for cleanliness and facilities but we also audit fire, health and safety matters and validate car and house insurance documents.
The final part of the process is to conduct a DBS (criminal record) check on all members of the family who are over 16 years of age. This means that their details are run through the national police database, and international databases if they have lived abroad. We insist on an enhanced check which alerts us to any criminal record they may have. More importantly, it will let us know if there are any restrictions on the person coming into contact with children.
Once all checks have been done and we are happy to work with our new host family, we will match them with a student. The first time they are due to host is very exciting for both the host family and the student.
We think it is very important that the host family collects their student from school. It is so much nicer for the student.
The challenge starts when the student arrives at the house. A good host family will be able to decide whether or not a student wants to join in on all activities. We encourage our host families to allow students to relax and not to pressure them to chat and talk all the time.
A host family will often notice something about a student that maybe gets overlooked in a busy, bustling boarding house. Host families will tell us if they notice their student has changed since they last hosted them. They may have lost or gained a lot of weight, seem withdrawn or they may event confide in them about worries they have.
Bright World then works closely with schools to make sure any concerns are dealt with quickly and carefully.
If a student enjoys going to their host family, what originates as a necessity can be turned into a truly positive experience. Staying with the right host family can offer the opportunity for students to gain new friends for life. It also offers a unique insight into the UK culture as part of their study abroad adventure.