Care of under 18s: what agents need to know about safeguarding

When children and teenagers come to study in the UK, there are special laws and rules to keep them safe. ​All English UK members are accredited by the British Council, which means they follow additional guidance to ensure young learners under the age of 18 stay safe and happy during their English course in the UK. 

How are young students protected when they study in the UK?

The British Council has strict rules to ensure safe care of under 18s. ​These rules protect students at all times, including in the classroom, at their accommodation, during the organised activities and during their spare time.

All students under 18 are protected

All students under the age of 18 are children under UK law. ​The rules are the same for all nationalities, even if a student is considered an adult in their home country.

What do language centres do to protect young learners?

Every accredited language centre has a safeguarding policy for under 18s, with procedures and rules to protect under 18s. 

To protect young learners, accredited language centres will have:

  • Appropriate classrooms - young students will always study with other students who are under 18 years old.​  Sometimes 16 or 17 year olds can study with adult if the school and parents agree.
  • Suitable staff - Language schools check all staff, group leaders, and home stay hosts that work with young students, to ensure they are suitable to work with children. This includes a police record check (called a DBS check in England and Wales)
  • Suitable accommodation - Young students can live in residential accommodation or in a homestay. ​They are supervised by appropriate adults
  • Risk assessments - Every activity will have a risk-assessment to ensure children will be kept safe, and there will be enough adults to supervise. 
  • Emergency contact arrangements - students will have a 24-hour phone number for a member of school staff in case of emergency, and the school will also require two contact numbers so they can contact a parent/guardian if necessary.​

What should agents do to help protect students under 18?

  • Read and understand the school's safeguarding policy
  • Ensure parents/guardians and students know what to expect to avoid misunderstandings
  • Provide the language centre with requested information including parental consent forms, emergency contact numbers and student medical information
  • Work closely with the language centre staff - their rules exist to make sure students are safe and happy, and they have overall responsibility for any under 18s enrolled at their centre
  • Recruit appropriate group leaders - agents will need to confirm that their group leaders have taken criminal background checks

Where can I get advice about care of under 18s?

If you have questions about safeguarding rules for young learners in the UK, you can contact Naadiya Rawat, English UK's compliance manager.