Frequently Asked Questions

We work with families in over 40 countries to ensure children are safe, happy and successful during their time at a UK boarding school. There's no question we can't answer! Browse through some of the most popular ones we hear below.

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FAQs for Parents

Finding a boarding school in the UK

We recommend that you start looking for a school around 18 months before enrolment, however late applications (less than a year before the intended start date) can still be placed. Contact us to get started!

Yes! We know exactly what schools are looking for, so we are happy to provide tips, and we can run practice interviews with your child.

Your child’s exams depend on which school they attend. The most common options for international students in the UK include GCSEs and A-levels, Highers and IB qualifications. We know which schools offer which exams, so we can help you find a school that offers the qualifications that best suit your child’s needs.

When we start looking for a school for your child, we take lots of factors into account. These usually include things like location, size, cost, extracurricular activities, and school specialisms. You might also have preferences regarding the boarding houses, pastoral care and additional learning support. These are some additional things to keep in mind when choosing your UK boarding school

Our first step is to get to know you and your child. By fully understanding your preferences, we can provide a shortlist of schools that suit your wants and needs. We work with over 450 schools across the UK, so we really do have the perfect school for everyone!

An introduction to guardianship

Here at Academic Families, we understand that guardianship can be a new concept for many of our parents. Families often ask us, "Why do we need a guardian? We are the parents. Can't the school just contact us?"

However, every boarder whose home is overseas or whose parents currently live or are posted abroad must have a nominated guardian for the duration of their stay at boarding school in England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland.

This guardian must be a resident in the UK. A guardian is an adult or company (such as Academic Families) who takes charge of the student and represents the parents in their absence while a student is enrolled in a UK boarding school. In the event of an emergency, the guardian will be the first point of contact. Parents will, of course, also be contacted, but the guardian will act in their absence with delegated parental responsibility.

Academic Families is your child’s guardian, and we take care of matching your child with the best host family, plus all travel and police disclosures and a number of other services.

The host family is the family that your child stays with during holidays or term breaks.

You can think of Academic Families like parents who take care of all the responsibilities, and the host families are like the grandparents who can enjoy the children!

We have a range of packages starting from £295 per term for our Emergency Package through to £995 per term for our Premium Package, which is a bespoke service including interpretation and translation support.

Payments can be made through Flywire, which allows you to pay in your local currency and by your preferred payment method (such as a credit card or debit card). The Flywire online system guides you each step of the entire payment process and has support in many languages.

You should only use a guardian that is accredited by the Association for the Education and Guardianship of International Students (AEGIS), which rigorously inspects and accredits guardianship organisations throughout the UK.

Here at Academic Families, we are recognised by AEGIS, the British Council, the Boarding Schools' Association, English UK and Youth Mental Health England for our professionalism and expertise.

Learn more about all of our accreditations and quality marks.

Guardianship services

If your child tests positive for Covid whilst in the UK, Academic Families abide by AEGIS guidelines which follow government guidance and state that students should self-isolate where they show symptoms or test positive. Pupils who test positive at school and cannot self-isolate in their family home should remain where they are.

We have a fantastic service which is very popular with our younger children. Our chaperone will meet your child at the plane door, escort them through the airport (Passport Control, changing terminals and shops) and then take them to the gate for their connecting flight.

We understand that starting school in the UK is a big adjustment. Our team of local coordinators are based throughout the UK so that they can meet new students at the start of term and be on hand to solve any issues. We have excellent relationships with the schools we work with and regularly liaise with school staff to come up with solutions for students who may be struggling. We find that students take the first term to fully settle in, but we are here on the ground to support your child all year round.

Absolutely! We have a team of experienced staff members who can attend the meetings and write up a report for you as well as convey any concerns you may have about your child's progress.

Yes. Once you sign up with Academic Families, we will hold an Expense Deposit Fund (EDF) and from this we can give your children pocket money, pay for taxis, meals out, etc. At the end of the guardianship, the remaining balance will be credited back to you.

Yes, we can take your child to the dentist or orthodontist and we can accompany them to doctor appointments too.

Academic Families are delighted to help your child plan which open days and talks they would like to attend. We can also easily accompany them on visits. Given that we are located here in the UK, we have a strong network of British universities and can also advise on which ones might be the best match for your child.

As well as guardianship, we provide admissions services for international students who want to attend UK universities. Please contact us to find out more about our university services.

Having a host family in the UK

Absolutely. Your child’s account with Academic Families includes health information such as food or pet allergies, medications, diet preferences, etc. and this is considered during the host matching process.

In the UK, the vast majority of the adult population are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and vaccines are now being offered to children over 12. In a case where your child tests positive, they will self-isolate wherever they are at the time of showing symptoms or testing positive. For example, if they are at school they will isolate at school; if they are at a host, they will stay there. If a host tests positive but your child is negative, we will move them to a different host family to keep them safe. For more information, you can read the AEGIS guidance which follows government guidelines.

We try our hardest to place a child with the same host family but on occasion, the host family may be unavailable. In these cases, we will match the child with another one of our fabulous families.

Switching families is often beneficial, as it gives your child more exposure to different lifestyles, British accents and the chance to make even more new friends.

We pride ourselves on our matching and take a lot of time getting to know your child, however, if there is an occasion that your child is not happy, we will find an alternative host family.

Our fleet of drivers will happily transfer your child from school to their host family and back again. All our drivers are security screened and police checked. They also follow new Covid safety protocols such as wearing masks, providing hand sanitiser and conducting extra cleaning regimes.

FAQs for Host Families

An introduction to hosting

As a host, you’ll play an important role in helping our international students feel at home when they are not at school. Academic Families have delegated parental responsibility and take care of all the arrangements (such as transport or going to parent meetings), so our hosts are free to enjoy spending time with the student.

The idea of hosting is to welcome the student into your family life, and to enjoy learning from each other. Find out more about what to expect when becoming a host family...

By hosting an international student, you’ll be opening up a whole world of opportunities where everyone involved can learn something new.

Hosting is a great way to introduce a different international perspective to your home as well as form valuable relationships – many of our students stay in touch with their host families years after they have left the UK.

For families with children, it’s an excellent way to develop your children’s social skills.

Learn more about the benefits for you and the students you’ll host.

The first step is to contact us through our host registration form or by calling our head office on +44 (0)131 331 3317. Once you have registered your interest, a member of our team will be in touch. We usually schedule a call so that we can get to know you a little better and to allow you to ask us any questions too.

If we are both happy to proceed after our call, we will arrange an informal house visit so that we can meet you and ensure that your home is suitable for hosting students.

We require all our hosts to be background checked, so following the house visit we will apply for a PVG or DBS on your behalf. Safeguarding is our priority, so we will also ask you to provide us with two contacts who can provide references for you.

Provided you have a clean background check, you’ll join our network of wonderful hosts from across the country. You’ll be asked to fill out some information to create your host profile, and then we’ll start the matching process to find you a student.

We work closely with our hosts throughout the application process, so if you have questions at any point, we’re always here to provide support.

All of our students are boarding pupils so most of their time is spent at school. Our hosts usually welcome students during exeat weekends – these are occasional weekends where Boarding Schools close. There are generally around 5 exeat weekends per year which take place at the end of September, November, January, March, and possibly in May.

Some hosts also like to have students stay during half term holidays throughout the year. These normally take place in October and February.

Sometimes you might be asked to host your student before or after their home flight. Most foreign students return home over Christmas, Easter and summer breaks.

Each student's situation and travel plans are different, so you might host a student for only one weekend a year, or you could play host once every 2 months.

Important information about hosting international students

It’s important to keep both our students and our host families as safe as possible. Students take part in regular testing at school to avoid transmission of Covid-19, which helps to keep host families safe too. We will also never ask a host family to take in a child who has tested positive for Covid-19.

We have students who come from all over the world! Currently we have students from over 40 countries, from as far away as Ghana, Japan, and Brazil.

We generally ask hosts to provide three meals for their students each day, although there is flexibility with this. For example, sometimes older students may want to go out by themselves during the day and may purchase their own food.

You will receive £40 per night for each child you host. You will also be reimbursed for any expenses that you incur for the student, such as shopping, and mileage if you are driving them.

We understand that life and plans can sometimes change and that you may not be able to commit to every date, so don’t worry. It’s our responsibility to match students with another host if there are dates you are unavailable – we just ask that you let us know with as much advance warning as possible so that we can make alternative arrangements.

Finding a good match for both hosts and students is a priority for us, and we will always try our hardest to send hosts the same student to allow you both to form a long-lasting, positive relationship. If a child’s original host family is unavailable, you might have the chance to host a new student, thereby introducing them to your neighbourhood and local community. Likewise, if you can’t host your student, he or she will be matched with another one of our friendly families.

Safeguarding is of the utmost importance to us, so we require all our hosts to be background checked before hosting. As an Academic Families volunteer, your DBS (England) or PVG (Scotland) won’t cost you anything and we’ll apply for it on your behalf.

How to be a great host

All hosts will take part in an online safeguarding course that takes approximately one hour. We also have a detailed handbook which all hosts will receive before they have any students to stay. The handbook covers everything you need to know about welcoming a student into your home.

If you have any concerns or worries about hosting, we are always at the end of the phone to answer any questions and provide support.

Many students can take the first term to settle into their new life at Boarding School, however, if you have concerns, our team are always on hand to help so don’t hesitate to contact us.

Our years of experience mean that we’re well qualified to provide guidance to both you and your student. We are trained in providing support for mental and physical health issues, and we offer tutoring services too if they are struggling at school.

If you find that your student is still not settling in, get in touch and we can switch host families and students around until we find everyone’s perfect match.

Don't panic! As guardian, Academic Families has delegated parental responsibility of the student you are hosting, so we are the first point of contact in all emergencies. In all our years of operating, we have never found a problem we couldn't solve!

We have over 10 years of experience of finding perfect matches. Before we pair any of our host families to a student, we take both parties into consideration. We will ask you about your interests, background and family life to gain a sense of you and your family. Our students also fill out a registration form and we know each student on a personal level, which helps with our matching process.

Once we have matched you to a student, we will send you their student profile before they come to stay with you. Their profile will give you information about their personality and interests as well as details you may need to know such as dietary preferences or allergies.

A great part of the hosting experience is getting to show off your local area. Students enjoy sightseeing and learning more about the UK whilst they are out of school. Getting out and about in nature, baking or cooking, going to the cinema and playing sports are all popular activities for our students and their hosts. One host family even taught their student how to ride a bike! Have a look at our activity blog post which is full of activity ideas for hosts and students to do together.

Learn more about how we support parents, students and partners

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