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Help at hand for parents overseas

Josephine Gardiner's article "Foreign children's welfare at risk" (TES, August 9) caught my attention as the welfare of young students learning English is of special concern to our association.

This issue underlines the importance for parents overseas of choosing a language school accredited by the British Council and a member of the Association of Recognised English Language Services (ARELS). Schools are regularly inspected by the British Council (with the inspectors visiting a random sample of host families).

We recommend members to ask their host families to sign a declaration that no one in their household has a criminal conviction that would make them unsuitable for looking after young students. To assist them we have produced a model form. Our members are also encouraged to check with their local social services department before accepting a host family.

The checking continues after the young student arrives at the school. He or she will be closely watched and monitored by staff, including teachers, who are in a good position to spot anything which does not seem quite right. Complaints about host families are immediately investigated and the student removed from that family should the relationship become strained. In addition, all host families are monitored through student feedback.

All these measures significantly reduce the risk of abuse of young students within host families. However, no amount of checking is too much and we certainly welcome additional measures including new legislation that would make it easier for our members to check backgrounds.

OKSANA HIGGLESDEN

PR officer, ARELS

2 Pontypool Place

Valentine Place, London SE1

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