We have a duty to ensure the safety and security of all our students and staff regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. We fulfil this duty by complying with all UK legislation in relation to our industry and by putting in place codes of practice appropriate for our students and programmes.   In its broadest sense, this means making sure:

  • All staff are fully informed about their duties and responsibilities in their various roles
  • All students are given detailed information about the various aspects of their course and programme and the staff responsible for them
  • All parties are fully informed about our welfare systems and procedures
  • The principal has overall responsibility for producing and distributing the necessary guidelines to all staff appropriate to their roles and oversee their implementation
  • The centre supervisors have special responsibility to ensure the host families, teachers and activity leaders behave in accordance with our safeguarding policies on a day-to-day basis
  • Everyone has full access to our support and emergency services 24 hours, 7 days per week
  • Complaints procedures are in place and clear to all

Specifically, our welfare policies are based on the two concepts of safeguarding and child protection. These are formed mainly for students aged under the age of 18. Policies such as insurance, travel arrangements and staff recruitment affect adults and children equally.

Safeguarding means looking after children. Child protection means preventing children from harm.

Our safeguarding and child protection policies are summarised below.   The full document can be provided on request.

  • Accommodation

We provide two types of accommodation: host family and residential.   Residential accommodation is only available for groups.

Safety considerations common to both host family and residential accommodation include:

  • Fire risk assessment. Residential centres are equipped with fire blankets, fire extinguishers, fire alarms and detailed and well-publicized evacuation procedure.
  • Good standards of hygiene and adequate washing facilities
  • Clean and comfortable beds in single or shared bedrooms with adequate furniture and storage for the students’ private belongings
  • Adequate provision of nourishing 3 meals per day
  • Adult supervision overnight
  • Residential centres are equipped with CCTV cameras and 24-hour duty staff
  • Clear arrangements for access to the buildings including keys

Homestay accommodation means living with a host family. This makes formulating rules more complicated and at times emotive. Generally host families treat their students like their own children. For this reason they may not consciously think of basic criteria. It is our duty to use our experience to identify these criteria, make them clear in writing and make our approach to observing them known to the host families. With this in mind a detailed document called General Guidelines for Host Families has been produced which is sent out to all applicants as part of their first Information Pack.

This document covers such issues as:

  • Formal security checks for the main carer in the host family in compliance with government legislation in addition to the family’s own self-declaration for not having any negative marks against them in relation to children in their care
  • Completing our Application Form which gives important basic information about the family
  • Interviews and home visits prior to admitting the family to our register
  • Written confirmation of accepting the student placed with them
  • Family meal times and the importance of the students sitting down to a meal with the family as often as possible. Catering for students’ special dietary needs
  • Acknowledging the importance of mutual respect and tolerance of different cultures
  • Sending the student’ Enrolment Form to the host family so that they can have basic information about them including health, diet and smoking habits

Travel

  • All students are met by their host families on arrival at a pre-agreed meeting point. Some individual students may have car transport from their arrival point in the UK. In those cases they will be taken directly to the host family’s home and picked up from there for their return journey. Detailed arrangements about times and location are communicated to all parties.
  • All groups arriving in airports are met by our hired coaches with a courier on board for transfer to one of our centres. They are also met on arrival at the centre by our centre supervisors.
  • Escorts, drivers and couriers should all have valid security documents

Group Courses

  • Educational, sports and leisure venues that we use for our group courses all have to comply with government Health and Safety Regulations. They all have their own risk assessments which get translated into their safety guidelines.
  • The colleges give an induction on the first day covering basic safety points such as fire safety and the use of premises.
  • Staff have an induction day before the start of all group programme to familiarize them with their duties and responsibilities, information flow among themselves to ensure the most efficient way of maintaining discipline and ensuring the smooth running of all programmes. They are given a document which details their duties and gives them contact details for senior staff who can provide support and assistance when necessary.
  • Staff are given guidelines about watching out for signs of bullying and abuse and how to deal with them. Our disciplinary policies in such cases are made known to all staff and students.
  • Students have an induction session on the first day.   This takes place with the group leaders and the Centre Supervisor present in order to make sure they are clear about their daily transport, facilities at the College, staff roles and their responsibilities, emergency contact details and general behaviour in the host family and college. The importance of safety is highlighted and lots of tips and guidelines provided. Information on some relevant UK laws are included in the students’ Guidelines, for example, the minimum age for buying and consuming tobacco and drinking alcoholic drinks.
  • It is made clear to the students that they should discuss their problems with their group leaders in the first instance. They can also approach the Centre Supervisors directly in relation to welfare issues and the Director of Studies in relation to Academic issues.
  • Risk assessment forms completed over the years in relation to all on campus and off campus visits and activities are collated and fed into the document called Mercator’s Safety Guidelines. This is made available to all staff, students and group leaders as part of their handbooks and information packs.
  • Centre supervisors check the students in every morning at the College. Absences must be notified to the relevant staff member immediately.
  • Adult supervision at the ratio of 1/15 is guaranteed.

Transport

  • Students on group courses are provided with bus passes for their daily transport. Host families are made responsible for teaching them about the relevant bus routes, timetable and the map of their locality. They are asked not to allow the students to use public transport on their own until they are fully confident.
  • In some centres where public transport is not efficient, host families drive the students on a daily basis.
  • All host families are asked to pick up the students from evening activities that finish at 10.00 p.m.
  • If taxis are used for students, the centre supervisor must be informed. Only Taxi companies with certificated drivers can be used. Where possible students should not travel in taxis alone.

Recruitment

  • We take every possible step to make sure we recruit secure and reliable centre supervisors, teachers and activity leaders. Our centre supervisors have been working with us for many years and have grown and developed with our systems and practices. Many of our One-to-One Home Tuition teachers and group tutors have also a long history of working with us.   In the case of new applicants, CVs are closely checked, references are followed and a valid Enhanced Disclosure Certificate is required.
  • Group leaders who accompany student groups from their country of origin to the UK are recruited by their agents or schools. We require to see some formally issued certification of good conduct obtained in their country. We also expect them to familiarize themselves with our safeguarding policy and follow it.

What our Agents Say

We have trusted Mercator for more than 20 years making our collaboration a special one and one of the longest! Our collaboration has built over the years through the organisation of short stays and long stays, for groups and individuals. The hundreds of students that we have sent to Cornwall and Devon have always been accommodated by warm host families. We are very keen on working with Mercator and appreciate their professionalism and loyalty and look forward to many more years of happy collaboration!

Delphine Valet SILC, Agent from France

Although for many years I recommended a study vacation in the UK to students to improve their English, I could never recommend any organising association because I was never happy with their standards of teaching or the accommodation they offered. In particularly this last feature. I am of the opinion that a family who is interested in helping the students to better their English is almost as important as the good standard of teaching in classes. Then I met Mercator Schools who not only combine good teaching methods with excellent teachers but also caring families who are interested in the young people who come to stay with them and interested in helping them improve their English. All of the Italian students that I know who have taken a course of English with Mercator Schools have greatly improved their English which has made it much easier to pass university exams and get better jobs.

Pat Parma Agent from Italy