Guardian family versus host family: The differences

When studying in the UK, it is important that international students have someone to look after them during the times when they are not at school. This person (or family) is chosen by the student’s parents, usually with the help of their chosen Agency, to look out for them and ensure that all of their pastoral and academic care requirements are met.

Boarding schools and the UK Government both require that students under the age of 16 have a nominated person (or family) to act on their behalf and keep them safe when not at school, to provide a stable home and act on behalf of the parents. It is important to note that the legal responsibility for the child remains solely with the appointed agency whilst they remain in the UK. The agency is in regular contact with the parent, child’s school and nominated family throughout the duration of their stay. The chosen family can either be a ‘host family’ or ‘guardian family’. Unfortunately, both get mixed up regularly and we find that guardian families are often referred to as host families when they are quite different. What is the difference between the two, and which is best for the child?

Host Family

A host family is a nominated family that has been selected to look after an international student on behalf of their parents while studying in the UK. They are not necessarily matched to the student, but do provide a safe place to stay, meals and transport when required. These placements are often used when students attend the UK for short periods of time, including summer school. They can also be used on a longer term basis, when the child attends college during the day and returns home each evening.

A host family has the benefit of having an overseas student to stay and therefore the opportunity to learn more about other cultures whilst providing a safe environment whilst the students are in the UK. There is no guaranteed ongoing commitment required and the student can often find themselves placed with multiple families during their stay. This type of placement can however also be upsetting if relationships are made before the student returns home. Expenses are reimbursed and the commitment is less than that of being a guardian as you can be involved as little or as much as you would like.

Guardian Family

A guardian family is also a nominated family selected to look after and care for foreign students, however these placements are often more carefully matched. Children cared for by The Guardian Family Network are all placed with guardian families rather than host families, and are located within an hour of their chosen school. The family is carefully selected depending on interests, likes, ages of children and general family dynamics so that the student fits in well.

The guardianship term is expected to last from a few years, through to the complete duration in which the child remains studying in the UK. The child normally stays with their guardian family during half terms, exeat weekends and in times of need as required throughout the school term. The placement is very thoughtfully placed together and the family often bonds with the child and develops a long standing relationship with them. The guardians also support the child through their school life by attending events such as parent’s evenings and sports days with their student. The guardians provide a commitment to support at a very personal level and also keep in contact with the child’s family, sending emails and photos to share how they are getting on. Expenses are also reimbursed like host families, however The Guardian Family Network provide an additional termly retainer as a ‘Thank you’ for your dedication and commitment to your student.

At The Guardian Family Network, we credit our primary success to the way in which we place our families and students together, which is reflected in the continued support of our guardians and the happiness of the children in their care.

If you have any questions or would like to chat to us about becoming a guardian please email or call me on either  01865 522005 or  07961 490673.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon,

Siobhan Skaife

The Guardian Family Network Ltd.

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