The History of Sutherland Education

Sutherland Education has a remarkable history dating back to 1965, some intriguing family connections and a philosophy of welfare that will give all parents comfort when sending their children to study in the UK.

The origins of Sutherland Education lie with Mrs Betty Sutherland, mother of the current head, Andrew Sutherland. Mrs Sutherland was an enterprising person and a passionate advocate for educational achievement.

After her postgraduate degree at Cambridge, she developed a career as a professional curator of historic houses and gardens – becoming an expert in opening properties that had never been opened to the public before.

Bateman's
Bateman’s – home of the Sutherland family

The Sutherland family lived at Bateman’s – a National Trust property in East Sussex famous for being the residence of Rudyard Kipling and where he wrote the world-famous poem “If”

Betty Sutherland started her first educational guardianship organisation Kith and Kind in 1965.

With educational guardianship running in the Sutherland family, it is not surprising that having completed a teaching career as deputy head at Claremont School, Andrew Sutherland started Sutherland Education as a professional guardianship organisation in 1989.

At this time, there was a growing need for professional guardianship. Prior to the 1980s was a time of ad-hoc guardianship arrangements – parents around the world would use their network of family connections to find guardians. Children from countries such as India, Hong Kong and other commonwealth countries would be sent to the UK to be educated, often following in their parent’s footsteps. They would be looked after by the headmaster’s wife or perhaps the local vicar. This worked well enough in the 1800s and early 1900s. In more recent times, with the collapse of the British Empire and shrinking of the commonwealth, together with the huge rise in students coming from South East Asian countries (Singapore, Thailand) as well as Japan and Korea, the need for professional guardianship rose sharply.

Andrew Sutherland draws inspiration from one of Kipling’s most famous poems “The Ballad of East and West”:

OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

These lines encapsulate the internationalist, no-borders approach taken at Sutherland Education.

The range of territories sending students to the UK then spread to Eastern Bloc countries, with students arriving from former Russian countries Tajikistan, Ukraine, Moldova, Russia, and finally China. Schools required guardians but overseas parents could no longer find family connections.

Andrew Sutherland and student
Andrew Sutherland and student

It was in this climate that Andrew Sutherland saw the urgent need to professionalise the guardianship industry. In 1991 he started to develop AEGIS (The Association for the Education and Guardianship of International Students). AEGIS was launched in the House of Lords in 1997. AEGIS now has 40 guardianship organisations – all of which have been inspected and accredited. Surprisingly, despite there being 27,000 students being looked after by educational guardians in the UK today, only 5000 international boarders are being looked after by organisations that are members of AEGIS. Andrew Sutherland is campaigning to educate schools and parents of the need to choose AEGIS-accredited guardianship organisations.

Meanwhile, Sutherland Education itself was growing rapidly, as it finally gave schools a trusted organisation to refer parents to. Within 3.5 years, Sutherland was looking after 110 students.

in last 15 years Sutherland Education has continued to retain its leading position in educational guardianship. In the last three years it has doubled the number of students in guardianship.

A key difference is that Sutherland is committed to overseeing the student’s whole educational pathway, being engaged in student welfare both pastorally and educationally. Most guardianship organisations do not have this educational bent and look after student’s welfare only.

In 2015, Sutherland Education celebrated a major milestone – the 50th anniversary of Andrew Sutherland’s involvement in the guardianship industry.

“The high point of leading Sutherland Education is redressing the situations where students have been places with families which have not worked out. It’s so important to get right type of family who want to share their home – a lot of students need extra support and help, and parents are so relieved to find the right support and the right family.”
Andrew Sutherland

Andrew Sutherland has also been involved with many charities concerned with the welfare of children. In (year?) he received an award from Princess Anne for work done with Save the Children.

He continues to run Sutherland with a remarkable philanthropic and altruistic approach, combining professionalism with 50 years of experience and a dedication to students’ welfare. In fact, the motto of Sutherland Education is “Sans Peur” – “Without Fear” – chosen because parents can send their children to the UK without fear.

Image credits

Photo of Batemans by Tony Grist (Photographer’s own files) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons