Who should join AGPI?
It is AGPI’s objective to develop processes and standards in partnership with students, parents, secondary schools, guardianship providers and overseas agents, which promote respect, participation, trust, and open and honest communication.
While there are many well-intentioned guardianship providers in Ireland, ranging from small to large, who have been providing quality programmes to students for many years, until now, there has been no association of quality providers to support the providers and the industry.
Unlike the English Language School sector, no guidelines have been put in place to monitor and inspect the quality of guardianship services. Quality language schools welcome and invite inspection and regulation, from organisations such as ACELS, MEI, EAQUALS, and Quality English. Most language schools will agree that the presence of regulators has allowed them to improve their standards and in turn to grow and gain a place on the international stage.
The presence of such regulation has given Ireland a reputation worldwide for providing high quality educational programmes. AGPI aims to provide Guardianship Providers with access to a robust Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) that will not only protect the young people in their care, but will also help the Guardianship Provider to improve their standards and thereby their presence in the international study travel market.
Our very thorough and transparent pre-inspection guidelines are designed to be informative and instructive, thereby assisting applicants in passing their inspection. The areas covered include: company structures; Irish legislation; policies; systems; compliance; communications; data protection; training; self-evaluation; company management; strategy; finance; human resources; organisational culture and adapting to change.
Perhaps most importantly, the founding of our association coincides with the nationwide enforcement of the Child First Act 2015 and forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation which will require all organisations offering guardianship services to adhere to the highest standards.
Inspections are carried out by a team of two inspectors, one specialising in child protection and the other in business management, and typically take three to four days to complete. As part of the inspection process, inspectors will: select and visit a range of schools, host families and students; interview provider staff and inspect systems in-house; and seek feedback from overseas partners and parents. Inspectors are always independent of AGPI and are not answerable to AGPI for decisions made.
Irish Secondary Schools need to be sure they are working with organisations that can match their own commitment to quality and care of young people. Today, with the enforcement of the Children First Act 2015 and other legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation 2018, Secondary Schools need to be vigilant about who they work with. Secondary schools need to ask the following questions of their guardianship providers:
- Is this provider a legal entity?
- Does the provider have adequate insurance if something goes wrong?
- Are the provider’s staff, who regularly visit my school, Garda vetted?
- Are the provider’s staff qualified? Have they undergone Child Safeguard Training?
- Is the host family Garda vetted?
- What is the provider’s staff: student ratio?
- How often will provider’s staff visit the student? At least once a month?
- Will they also regularly visit the host family to ensure the child is happy?
- Have we received thorough documentation about this student, including grades, parental consents, and medical reports which we can trust?
- Does the provider have a Child Protection Policy and Student Care Plan?
- Who is the Designated Liaison Person (DLP) in the provider’s organisation, should there be a child care issue?
- Who is responsible for this child outside school hours?
- Is there a 24 hour emergency service?
- This child’s parents are overseas, can I really be sure he/she is in safe hands with this provider?
AGPI understands that secondary schools do not have the resources to check all of this information in advance. By joining AGPI and only working with AGPI members, the secondary school can rest assured that they are working with a ‘best practice’ provider, who has undergone and passed a very thorough inspection process, covering all of the above questions and much more.
Overseas Partners and Agents
In today’s study abroad market, more and more parents are choosing to send their children to Ireland to complete a placement in an Irish secondary school. Naturally, these parents want services that allow them to feel in control and meet their self-defined needs. At AGPI, we believe that the young person, their parents/legal guardians, the agent, the guardianship provider and the hosting school, all need to work in collaboration, developing processes which promote respect, participation, trust, and open and honest communication. When choosing a Guardianship Provider in Ireland, overseas agencies need to be sure that their partners:
- have undergone a Quality Assurance Inspection;
- are legally established entities;
- are financially stable and have financial systems in place to ensure fees paid to them
- are safe and allocated correctly;
- are fully insured;
- have qualified staff who have undergone Child Protection Training as well as Garda (Police) vetting;
- have an adequate number of student advisors or counsellors with a student/staff ratio of at least 1:30;
- have a Designated Liaison Person (DLP) who has undergone DLP training;
- have systems in place to ensure the young person is placed in a suitable school;
- have systems in place to ensure the young person is placed in a suitable Garda (Police) vetted family;
- have a 24 hour emergency telephone service in place, 7 days a week;
- have a clearly defined system in place for student welfare, pastoral care, academic progress, and personal safety;
- have a clearly defined and implemented Child Protection Policy and Student Care Plan for each student in their care;
- AGPI members provide a clear monthly report on student progress to the parents/agent abroad.