Safeguarding help might come from within an ELT organisation – or be available outside.

Everyone in UK ELT organisations is responsible for helping international students adjust to life in UK and to stay safe.

Whatever your role, you will be contributing to student safeguarding. Marketing and admissions staff provide clear information so that students – and their parents or group leaders – know before arrival what to expect and what to bring. Teachers, social programme, accommodation and reception staff answer questions and guide students to understand how things work locally and in UK. 

Homestays provide welcoming homes and caring support that make students feel secure in a different country, plus lots of information about local travel and places to go. 

Group leaders, even if it is their first-time in UK, help their students, especially the younger ones, in all the ways already mentioned; they have a big job getting to know and supporting all their students. 

All of this is good safeguarding.

Solving problems by sharing information

If you think a student has a safeguarding problem, you usually need to tell somebody about it. ELT organisations have safeguarding (sometimes called welfare) staff; their job is to respond to students’ non-academic problems. Even if you can resolve a student’s safeguarding issue yourself, you still need to tell the safeguarding staff what you have done because they need a full picture of each student.

When safeguarding staff hear about a safeguarding issue, they try to help the student. They look at the student’s application form for any useful information, for example if the student has a medical condition or is taking medication. 

They talk to the student and to people who know the student, for example the student’s teacher, homestay or accommodation staff, group leader and if they are under 18, maybe the student’s parents.

Usually students’ safeguarding issues can be resolved this way. The organisation’s safeguarding staff have the skills and experience to sensitively collect information and then make things better so that the student feels more content.

Sometimes things are not so easy, especially if information about the student is missing, for example:

  • the student’s application form was not fully or honestly completed
  • somebody in the ELT organisation forgot to share something they noticed about a student with the safeguarding staff.

It is really important that both these points happen to allow the safeguarding staff to do their job successfully. 

Lots of help exists outside

Some safeguarding issues cannot be resolved only by the organisation’s safeguarding staff, especially if the student’s problem is a big one and beyond the expertise of staff within the ELT organisation. The safeguarding staff have a responsibility to help the student; that means finding the right help for that student and their problem and the ‘right help’ might come from outside

There are many national, regional or local support groups that provide help. The ELT organisation’s safeguarding staff should be ready with a list of websites and phone numbers for groups that help typical student issues, (for example mental health), and contact them quickly to get guidance on the best way to help the international student.

Every day, these support groups deal with people suffering from a particular problem; they have a lot of specialist knowledge which can be invaluable helping international students, either indirectly through advice to an ELT organisation’s safeguarding staff or sometimes helping the student direct. 

In extremely serious cases, key services such as the NHS and police should also be able to help an ELT organisation.

Safeguarding staff cannot know the answer to every student problem, especially the more difficult, serious problems. Good safeguarding is doing the best for the student; if that means going outside the organisation to get specialist help, then do it and do it quickly!

If you have a question or would like some help on this topic, please leave a comment below!