Andrew Sutherland, the principal of Sutherland Education, has firm beliefs about how international students should be looked after when coming to study in the UK.
“Sutherland Education is a care organisation” says Andrew. “It is so important that the fundamental ethos of the care of children; promoting their welfare, developing their sense of self, understanding others and true citizenship, rides high in those who are looking after them.”
With over 50 years of experience and having been a founding member of the governing body AEGIS, Sutherland are in a unique position to understand and adapt to the varying needs of the families and students that come into their care. They can therefore offer as much flexibility to their service as required.
“We offer a basic, standard guardianship but then you will find that you can add various areas of support to that as you need” explains Andrew.
“Some parents are very well informed of the English education system, can speak English and relate directly to the school. They don’t need someone in between.
Other parents feel they need a lot of support because of language difficulties or lack of familiarity with the programmes and with the educational system.”
The key to all of the services that Sutherland Education provide is that they are there to support every parent and every student according to their needs. In Andrew’s opinion, this is fundamental to the safeguarding of international students.
Andrew Sutherland’s mission for Sutherland Educational has two levels. The first level is to look after the wellbeing and interests of the individual student. “Our aim is to ensure, first of all, that the student is well safeguarded and secure” asserts Andrew proudly. “That same level of security is available when the child leaves school to go and stay in the homestay with their guardian.” The second level is to enable the student to achieve success in their studies.
From the moment a child arrives in the UK, to the moment they board a plane back home, that welfare must be seamless. At all times, wherever they are, they need to know that they are safe. If either the parents or the student needs support there is an emergency line available twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.
One example of this emphasis on care giving is the attention to detail with which support staff and guardians are selected. They all understand the responsibility that they are taking on and take that role very seriously. Mike Etere has been a driver for Sutherland Education for over ten years and is often the first point of contact for students arriving in the UK.
“I’m the first face that they see when they come through the into the arrivals hall at the London airports” says Mike. “I usually bring them to the host family or the school. Of course they might be very tired coming from as far afield as China, Thailand or Russia.”
One of the things that Mike feels conscious of is when he is transporting the younger students who could be 13 or 14 years old. “It is part of our service to make sure that they’re checked in at the check-in desk at the airport”, states Mike. “I would personally see them through to the passport control or hand them over to the aircraft staff or whatever’s been organised by the parents of that particular student.”
Coming to a different country to study enables students to benefit enormously from the opportunity of intercultural exchange. It is Andrew Sutherland’s deepest hope that while doing so, they will be looked after properly.
“We live in an international world. The economies of the world now are interdependent. They are inextricably linked together.” Andrew eloquently puts. “We need young people to be global citizens and share common values. Humanity has a commonality. We need to seek that common ground between ourselves…to make a more peaceful world.”