How popular is the UK as a destination for language travel students?
The UK education system is internationally respected. Every year over 600,000 learners come to the UK to achieve their ambitions, to experience modern life in the UK and to use the language in its natural home. The ability to speak English is seen as a major advantage in an increasingly globalised and competitive world. Many students choose to come to the UK to be immersed in our language and be able to use their English every day.
There are a wide range of educational institutions offering courses across the UK. Some of these include private language schools, independent schools, tutorial colleges and further and higher educational institutions. The range of courses available at these institutions is vast and can include General English, English for Business, Examination Preparation, English for Academic Purposes, and Foundation and Access Courses.
HFS London works on behalf of numerous institutions, many of which are language schools. Accreditation UK is the UK accreditation scheme for English language courses. It is run by the British Council, in partnership with English UK, the national association of accredited English language centres. Language schools must meet strict criteria in order to gain an accreditation. English language courses, for example, are inspected every four years and accredited language schools are also required to report annually. A team of independent inspectors check standards such as management of teaching and course provision, learning resources and environment for students and teachers, teaching and learning standards, and welfare support services for students.
One of the reasons behind the popularity of the UK as a destination for study is that students are assured of a quality education. There are over 430 accredited English language centres in the UK, with many of these centres in London.
What does a typical international student's path to London look like?
International students literally have a world of choice when it comes to deciding where to study. Traditionally England and USA have been the most popular destinations of choice for a foreign student wanting an international education. Australia, Canada and Ireland are also very popular destinations for students.
International students that choose to study in the UK will initially contact an educational ‘study abroad agency’ in their home country. Such organisations are based all over the world. The role of a study abroad agency is to understand the needs of the student and advise them in their native language. This will include advice on the most appropriate country to study in. They will also help the student choose their place of study (language school, university etc.) and the most suitable course to help them achieve their goals.
Often the study abroad agency will facilitate course enrolment and the logistics of entry into the UK, for example, visa application. The UK Border Agency (UK BA) governs the requirements on international student visas and entry into the UK. International students from countries that require student visas are now only able to study at educational institutions that are on the UK BA Trusted Sponsors List. Such institutions are graded as Highly Trusted, A Rated or B Rated.
HFS London works directly with educational institutions here in London and abroad, such as language schools and universities. As well as this, we have direct links with study abroad agencies. Our relationship with an educational institution or agent will be defined by a contractual agreement that outlines procedures on our provision of Homestay to their students. The educational institutions and agencies that we work with are, therefore, clients of HFS London. We also often receive accommodation requests from international students that contact us independently; through recommendation or over our website.
Who governs/oversees the provision of Homestay in the UK?
At HFS London we follow the British Council Homestay guidelines and Codes of Practice that educational institutions are required to adhere to as part of on-going accreditation with the British Council and English UK.
The British Council makes a clear distinction between “Homestay” and “Private Home” accommodation:
‘Homestay – The hosts treat the student as a full member of the household, eating together and sharing the common living areas; no more than four students will be accommodated in homestay accommodation at any one time (homes accommodating more than four adult students should be described as private home accommodation).’
‘Private home accommodation – Accommodation in a private home for adults; more than four adult students may be accommodated in the home; there may be less direct contact with the host(s); and students may be self-catering. (Private home accommodation is not suitable for under-16s.)’
To ensure a comfortable living environment throughout their stay the British Council requires that the below be made available to the student in any Homestay and Private Home accommodation:
- a proper state of cleanliness and repair
- adequate heating and lighting
- a sufficiently spacious bedroom with natural light, equipped with an adequately sized bed and adequate hanging and drawer space for clothes
- appropriate privacy from members of the opposite sex
- a table for private study (where appropriate)
- sufficient washing facilities and access to a bathroom, with baths or showers available daily
- a change of towels and bed linen each week and an adequate supply of duvets or blankets
- a laundry service (especially in the case of under-16s) or clearly explained laundry arrangements.
The British Council and English UK also produce a Code of Practice for Host Families providing Homestay to international students:
- To encourage the student to speak English as much as possible in your home
- To encourage the student to feel at home and to treat him/her as a member of the family rather than a paying guest
- Not to host another student of the same native language at the same time unless by special arrangement with the students and the schools/centres
- To provide a clean and comfortable student room, meeting the requirements laid down by the British Council
- To provide a home environment in which it is possible for the student to carry on his/her English Studies properly
- To provide the student with a balanced and appropriate diet (if applicable)
- To show due concern for the welfare, safety and security of the student during his/her stay
- To give the student reasonable and regular access to bathroom and laundry facilities
- To maintain a close liaison with the Homestay accommodation agent and so be in a position to help resolve any problems that the student may encounter during his/her stay
- To respect the student’s different cultural background and to be sensitive to the needs of the student
Why do overseas students choose Homestay over other accommodation?
Imagine sending your son or daughter to study or work in New York, Tokyo or any other major city abroad for the first time. You will naturally be excited for them but at the same time will want to make sure they have a rewarding and positively memorable experience of their time abroad.
Perhaps you do not have children but yourself have lived abroad. If so, you will know first hand that integrating yourself in a new country, speaking a new language and fitting in with a new culture will present challenges on every level.
For many students it is their first time visiting London and, for some, it may be their first time travelling abroad without their parents. Many visiting international students will sit down with their family at home to decide on the best options for their stay in London. Their choice of accommodation will be as important as where they choose to study.
International students who choose to live with a Host Family over other options want to be integrated into a “home away from home” environment where they can live within a typically British home, experience our culture and have further opportunities to practise their English.
Hosting an international student can be more akin to fostering than it is to renting a spare room out to a lodger. Hosting a student should not, however, take over the normal routine of your home life as students will integrate into the normal running of your family home. New Host Families often ask if they are required to organise excursions or activities for their students on weekends. This is not required as many schools and colleges will often offer the student this option themselves. Students will, however, expect to be included in as many aspects of family life as possible.
Students who have visited the UK before often recount how their first experiences of London have shaped their opinions of our culture, of British people and how they view the UK. Where a student has had a positive first experience of the UK they will retain it for the rest of their lives.
Homestay can be a hugely rewarding experience for Host Family and student, as well as the start of lifelong friendships for both.
What are the typical backgrounds of your international students?
As we work with numerous educational institutions, we place students from all over the world. There is not one nationality that we work with more than another. You may find that certain places of study will have students from particular parts of the world.
This will likely be due to their business relationships with particular study abroad agencies from these particular parts of the world. Homestay, by its nature, tends to be short term. Students who intend to stay on in the UK often choose Homestay to find their feet in London. When they are more confident they may choose to live with friends in other forms of accommodation. The average stay in a Homestay is between 4 to 6 weeks. HFS London has a minimum stay policy of 2 weeks and there is no upper limit.
You may find that a student books a Homestay for an initial period and then asks to extend with you. In this scenario, please refer them directly to us so that we can co-ordinate this with their place of study and all other relevant parties. HFS London is happy for a student and Host Family to stay together as long as all parties are happy with the arrangement.
The shorter term students tend to come to London to study at the capital’s language schools. The longer term students usually come here to study at a university or, perhaps, undertake work experience or an internship.
We also get requests from international professionals visiting London who are interested in Homestay for the same reasons as our students. The professionals may sometimes come in groups where the trip has been organised by their company at home and these stays are usually short term.
Students come to London with different levels of English. It is rare that a student cannot speak English at all as many international students are required to start learning English from a very young age in their home countries. You are as likely to host a student with a beginner’s level as you are one with an advanced grasp of the English language.
An international student and his or her parents will plan the trip to the UK carefully. The expense involved in course fees, flights, accommodation, spending money etc to the student’s family will not be insignificant. This usually means that they will take their studies seriously and will want to get the most out of their trip to the UK.
You will often therefore find that, whatever their background, your guest will generally be very open and keen to learn about your family and life here in the UK. They will be mindful that they are coming into a family home and respectful of this fact.
This is feedback that we hear time and time again from our Host Families, and is one of the main reasons why families feel comfortable in opening up their homes to welcome our international guests.
Which boards can I register to provide?
HFS London offers the below Homestay accommodation options to international students. As a Host Family you can select to offer any of the options below. On the Inspection Visit at your home, HFS London will record which of the options you are happy to offer.
|Self Catering||Guest prepares own meals and has a dedicated storage area for food in the kitchen. Times for use of kitchen to be decided with host family.|
|Bed and Breakfast
‘Light’ access to kitchen only
Cereal, Toast, Jam, Tea/Coffee, Juice
‘Light’ access includes use of the kitchen to make a sandwich and possibly use of the microwave. No access to the cooker/oven to prepare meals.
|Half Board (5 Nights)
Continental Breakfast 7 days in the week. Evening Meal Monday to Friday only. ‘Light’ access to kitchen on weekends.
Cereal, Toast, Jam, Tea/Coffee, Juice
Main meal to include a meat or fish dish. To be eaten with host family.
‘Light’ access includes use of the kitchen to make a sandwich and possibly use of the microwave. No access to the cooker/oven to prepare meals.
|Half Board (7 Nights)
Continental Breakfast and Evening Meal Monday to Sunday.
Cereal, Toast, Jam, Tea/Coffee, Juice
Main meal to include a meat or fish dish. To be eaten with host family.
Continental Breakfast, Packed Lunch and Evening Meal (Monday to Sunday).
Cereal, Toast, Jam, Tea/Coffee, Juice
To include a sandwich, fruit, drink and a bag of crisps or a bar of chocolate
Main meal to include a meat or fish dish. To be eaten with host family.
Half Board is the most popular package chosen by students and will account for approximately fifty per cent of all placements made with our Host Families. This is because the package provides more opportunity for students to interact and engage with you as their Host Family. Each Host Family’s personal circumstances will be different. Providing evening meals, for example, may not be suitable for everyone. Half Board tends to work well for families who regularly cook an evening meal, maybe because they have children in the home. In this scenario, adding an extra place at the table will be of little inconvenience.
Host Families are also offered the option of registering for the Half Board 5 Nights package. The student is provided with a continental breakfast every day, but an evening meal is only provided five nights in the week. Although we suggest that the evening meal is provided Monday to Friday, in practice the Host Family can come to an arrangement with the student directly as to which two days in any week they prefer not to have their evening meal. The student should be allowed ‘light’ access (see below) to the kitchen (on weekends only). This catered option allows for a little bit more flexibility to both the student and the Host Family.
Full Board is a popular choice for junior students (aged 18 years old and under). Junior students usually come to study in London on very short trips and as part of a larger group (anywhere from 30 up to 100 overseas students in one homestay group). The average stay with a Host Family is usually no more than one week so it is short term by homestay standards.
The difference between Half Board and Full board is the addition of a packed lunch. This needs to contain a sandwich, fruit, drink and a bag of crisps or a bar of chocolate. Although it is a little bit more work for the Host Family to prepare, many Host Families are happy to provide the packed lunch as juniors groups are only here for short stays (one week on average).
Junior homestay accommodation is the fastest growing market in the language travel sector here in London. Therefore if you happy to host students aged under 18 and able to offer the Full Board package, we will be able to contact you about many more students than if you preferred not to.
Host Families who are unable to provide Half Board (or Full) will usually register to offer Self-Catering and/or Bed & Continental Breakfast.
When on the Self-Catering package the student will have full access to the kitchen to prepare his/her own meals, with an allocated storage space in the fridge and cupboard. The host is not required to provide meals.
When on the Bed & Continental Breakfast option, the student should be provided with a Continental Breakfast but only allowed ‘light’ access to the kitchen. ‘Light’ access to the kitchen means that the student is allowed to make a sandwich or use the microwave, but will not require access to the oven and cooker. With Bed & Continental Breakfast, the Host Family provides the breakfast. It does not, however, need to be served to the student as they will help themselves in the morning. Students may request some storage space for basic food supplies.
The Self Catering and/or Bed & Continental Breakfast package can offer more flexibility to Host Families unable to cater for evening meals.
We also have many Host Families who prefer to retain control of their kitchen and, therefore, prefer to cater for students. If you fall into this category, you may only wish to register to offer Bed & Continental Breakfast and Half/Full Board to students.
In general terms, the more flexible you are as regards board(s) offered, the more placements we will be able to contact you about. If, for example, you are in a position to register with HFS London to offer all four packages (Self-Catering, Bed & Continental Breakfast, Half Board and Full Board), then your profile will be shortlisted by our Placements Team more frequently than if you only registered to offer Self-Catering.
HFS London will never ask you to provide an accommodation package that does not fit your personal circumstances.
If your circumstances change at any time after your registration and you wish to change the packages that you are able to offer, then please inform HFS London and we will amend our database accordingly.
What is the difference between an Individual and Twin booking?
An Individual booking is a booking for one student. If an Individual student is placed with a Host Family the guest must have his/her own room with either a single or double bed, as appropriate.
There are certain requirements that Host Families should adhere to for Twin bookings:
- Students booking a Twin room should be placed in a bedroom with two separate single beds (or a good sized double bed for a couple).
- The Host Family should never place an Individual booking in a Twin room where our student shares with another guest that they do not know.
- The Host Family should not place Individual guests in Twin rooms, unless the Host Family is prepared to reserve the Twin room for the exclusive use of this guest for the entire duration of their stay
How do you categorise a Host Family's accommodation?
Many of the educational institutions we work with are based in Central London. A very important factor when our placements team match student to Host, is the student’s journey to their place of study.
International students buy accommodation packages based on zone (London Tube/Rail map). To determine which zone a Host falls into, we are required to look at the nearest tube/rail station to the home – this must be no more than 10 minutes’ walk to the home. Your postcode will allow us to calculate the nearest station and distance thereto. We then calculate 1 mile as equivalent to a 20 minute walk.
HFS London has the below two categories of accommodation.
|Standard||Mainly zones 2, 3 and 4, this is a very good level of Homestay accommodation. It will usually be within good residential areas. This will mainly be in houses and sometimes apartments.|
|Superior||Mainly zones 1, 2 & 3 and will be a higher standard of Homestay accommodation, some with the additional benefit of a private bathroom. This will be either in houses or apartments.|
Each Host’s accommodation will be categorised after the Inspection Visit. To determine in which of the above categories we can classify an accommodation, we will look at factors such as area, standard of property, standard of room, availability of private bathroom (if any). We will also factor in aspects such as ‘homeliness’ and how likely it is that an international student would look forward to returning to your home after a day at their place of study.
HFS London offers two categories of Homestay to suit different student budgets. When a student is choosing a Homestay, budget and location requirement are often important factors for them.
A student may, for example, contact HFS London requesting a Superior Zone 2 Homestay. If your accommodation is classified in our Superior Zone 2 category, and you and the student are a potentially suitable match, you will be contacted by our placements team about the booking.
In general terms the more flexible a Host Family can be regarding categorisation, the more often our placements team will be able to contact you thereafter.
HFS London will discuss categorisation and remuneration in detail at the inspection visit. We understand that the financial considerations can be very important for Host Families and we will always register you in the highest category possible within the above framework. We will also never ask you to register in a category that does not suit your personal circumstances.
On the rare occasion that a Host Family’s expectations on remuneration do not tally with our classification of the accommodation, we are unlikely to be able to complete the registration.
What happens on the Inspection Visit?
An HFS London Inspections Officer will meet with you at your home and it is imperative that you allow up to 60 minutes for the visit.
The aim of the visit is to understand your motivations for applying to be a Host Family, as well as to inspect the accommodation to ensure that it meets all the requirements of the educational institutions that we work with.
Key factors that we look at to establish suitability include but are not limited to:
- Motivations for applying to register to host international students
- The standard of the accommodation (including the guest bedroom)
- The area surrounding the home (amenities, transport, safety)
- The number of people in the home versus the size of the accommodation
- Current requirements of clients that we work with
The visit is also an opportunity for you to ask questions and establish definitively whether Homestay is right for you. In order to do this, our Inspections Officer will run through important information such as expectations of Host Families, booking procedures, different boards and meal plans, setting Ground Rules, Homestay categorisation, payment rates and procedures, procedures for extensions. The Inspections Officer will need to take photos of all of the communal areas of the home e.g. student room(s), living room, kitchen, bathroom etc.
A key part of the service that our Placements Team provide to our school clients is the matching of their students to our Host Families. As many of the Placements Team will not see your home, the photos are an extra aid for them when pairing student to Host Family.
HFS London will never publish photos of your home on any website without your advance permission. Nor will we provide any of your personal information to third parties not related to the Homestay booking process
What happens after the Inspection Visit?
After the Inspection Visit HFS London will write to you to inform you of whether your registration has been successful. If so, you will receive:
- A welcome letter that confirms details of your registration, categorisation and rates of pay.
- The HFS London Host Family Agreement. You will be asked to print, sign and post us an original copy in order to complete the registration.
- A copy of the HFS London Host Family Handbook.
Please note that HFS London will be your point of contact after your registration has been completed. Any student placed with you will be informed that their point of contact will be their place of study. If you have any concerns of any nature, please contact HFS London directly and not the student’s place of study.
New Host Families often ask how soon after registration they should expect to receive their first student. This will depend on many factors that include:
1. Time of Year
HFS London has students arriving all year round. However, certain times of the year are busier than others. Between January and April there will usually be many international students starting courses. During April to October it can be extremely busy with students visiting London while on holiday from university courses in their home countries. October to December tend to be quieter months than the rest of the year, but many students will start making advance bookings at this time for courses starting the following January.
2. Host Family’s Flexibility
Host Families who are able to be more flexible and register to offer all three boards, for example, will be contacted more often than Host Families that only register to offer one. Similarly if a Host Family is open to male and female students, smokers and so on, they will be contacted more frequently. As a general rule the more flexible a Host Family is able to be, the more students we will be able to suggest to them.
3. Location and Proximity to Transport
International students are usually very specific about the travel time from the Host Family to their place of study. Often this is the most important criteria. Students often prefer bus or tube over rail, but this will depend on where they are studying. As a very general rule, the closer the Host Family is to central London the more frequently they are likely to be selected.
What happens on the day of arrival of my students?
Students usually arrive on the weekend. If your student is arriving on a week day, then often more careful planning is needed to ensure that the student arrives at a time that does not clash with the Host Family’s working day. For example, if a student has a flight arriving in London in the afternoon but the Host Family does not finish work and get home until 7pm, then the student will need to have been made aware of this in advance so that they can aim to reach you after 7pm.
If the student is flying to London then we will endeavour to inform you of their flight arrival time, flight number and which airport they will be arriving at. Students will either pre-book an airport transfer to your home or make their way to you directly by public transport.
The Host Family will not be expected to collect students from the airport or from a pick up point. The only exception to this will be where HFS London has agreed this in advance with the Host Family; usually at the time a booking is made. Under no circumstances will a Host Family be required to collect a student if this has not been agreed in advance through HFS London and with all parties concerned.
The student’s first day in the home should include a welcome orientation, to include introductions to family members. Students will also often need initial information on local amenities and transport. We rely on the Host Family to help the student plan their journey to their place of study. Some students may, for example, prefer to travel by bus over the Underground and the Host Family is best placed to advise the student here. Many Host Families will actually drive or walk their student to the nearest station on their first day and show them how to buy and use an Oyster card. Although initially our transport system can be quite daunting for a student, after a short time of using London’s transport network students will find their feet and become independent.
It is strongly advisable to swap contact phone numbers when your student arrives. Your student may not have purchased a UK mobile phone. Many students will buy a Pay As You Go mobile phone in their first week in London. Please ask your student for their UK mobile number as soon as they are in possession of one so that they are contactable for the duration of their stay.
Are there any typical difficulties faced by visiting overseas students?
Where students are coming to London for the first time they may have very different expectations of life here. Cultural differences may lead to misunderstandings for both the Host Family and the student.
People may naturally feel offended where things are said in the wrong way. We expect our guests to use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ as we do. The way we use these social skills may seem like common politeness, but different cultures express social skills in very different ways. A student that says ‘give me the salt’ at the dinner table may not be disrespectful, merely unaware of what is polite and impolite language. We also express ourselves through body language and tone of voice, which can also vary from culture to culture. Many languages do not have such a wide range of intonation as English so foreign learners may sound unfriendly when, in fact, they are not.
Host Families that successfully integrate students into their home will have learnt to be sensitive to different cultural backgrounds and understand that adapting to life in London for the first time can be very challenging for an international student.
Whilst the vast majority of students adapt very well to life in the UK, some can experience feelings of alienation and homesickness when they first arrive. This can be caused by things such as differences in routine and travel arrangements, unfamiliar official procedures and differences in family life. Students with a more elementary level of English may also find adjusting a little bit more difficult.
Although there is not one way to help in these situations, providing a comfortable and welcoming home environment will go some way to allaying culture shock and homesickness. Often some kind words and some friendly advice will be all that is needed to reassure and encourage them.
The Host Family is there for the student as a point of support and guidance for the duration of the studentâ’s Homestay. This should be one of the hugely rewarding aspects of being a Host Family.
Do not hesitate to contact HFS London if we can help you in any way. In any situation we are able to ask for the support of the student’s place of study. We are here as your point of support before, during and after any student placement.
Why do I need to set Ground Rules?
Host Families are strongly advised to provide Ground Rules to each student staying with them from the outset; to avoid misunderstandings and to ensure that students are clear on the house rules.
New Host Families sometimes feel that Ground Rules are quite a formal introduction to the home and their family life. It is, however, advisable to have some structure and guidelines for any new student that help avoid misunderstanding and possible cultural differences. In certain countries, for example, smoking indoors is much more socially acceptable than it is here in the UK. How the Ground Rules are delivered is up to the individual Host Family, but we would suggest that they are discussed upon the student’s arrival in the home.
Ground Rules should be set around the parameters of the HFS London Host Family Agreement that you will have signed, the HFS London Host Family Handbook and any house rules that are particular to your home.
Please note that students should be allowed to share all the communal areas in your home e.g. living room and/or lounge. The kitchen area is not sufficient communal space and HFS London will unlikely be able to register families that restrict use of communal areas in the home, as this is against the spirit of the “home away from home” experience.
Areas to consider when setting Ground Rules for your home:
1) Policy on use of telephone for incoming and outgoing calls
2) Policy for internet usage
3) Times for using the bath/shower
4) Keeping the bathroom tidy and clear of toiletries
5) Where, if at all, smoking is permitted
6) Whether visitors are welcome and until what time
7) Guests of the opposite sex
8) Times for breakfast and, if applicable, evening meals
9) What to do when a student expects to be home late
10) Rules on overnight guests
11) Number of wash loads allowed per week
12) Noise levels at particular times of the day
13) Clear guidelines on where food will be stored
14) Whether food is allowed in the student’s room
15) Reminder to return house keys before departure
Some Host Families will include the Ground Rules as part of a Welcome Pack that may also include information on directions to shops, supermarkets, chemists, the post office, local bank, libraries, leisure centres and internet cafes.
Generally, the more flexible a Host Family is with a student, the more they feel at home. At the same time, it is important that students understand the boundaries and fit in with the normal running of your home.
How the Ground Rules are delivered is as important as the content you choose to include therein. Please try and run through Ground Rules in a way that is informal and welcoming. Ground Rules should form part of an overall welcome and introduction to life in London and the family home.
Do I have to give my student a key to my home?
The Host should provide a set of keys to each student aged over 16 to allow the student access to the home as and when needed. It is unlikely that HFS London will be able to register a Host who is unwilling to provide their student with a front door key. With students under 16 years old, Hosts can use their discretion as to whether they give the student a front door key.
It is crucial that the Host Family agrees to be present on the day of the student’s departure to organise to collect keys. If this is not possible, it is the Host Familyâ’s responsibility to make arrangements to have keys returned prior to the student’s departure. In their absence some Host Families will ask a neighbour or family friend to be there on the student’s departure.
If the student does leave without returning keys, HFS London will endeavour to make contact with the student through his/her school or agent abroad to have these returned to the Host Family.
What furniture needs to be in my student's room?
The Host Family should ensure that each bedroom made available to students is well decorated and maintained, benefits from good natural light and is completely free from clutter. There should be a comfortable full size single or double bed(s) for the student(s) and the room(s) will not contain bunk beds, sofa beds, fold up beds or futons (unless approved by HFS London in advance). The Host will also ensure that there is a wardrobe and adequate storage space. If a desk or table is not available in the student’s room, the Host Family should make one available elsewhere in the house. This could be the dining room or kitchen table, as appropriate.
The Host Family should not place students in bedrooms that have not been seen by HFS London at the Inspection Visit and should inform HFS London should they plan to make use of a new room, so that a re-inspection visit can be organised.
It is important that the Host Family ensures that the student’s room is for the exclusive use of the guest(s) and that the Host Family agrees to respect the student’s privacy at all times. The Host Family should make sure that the room is only entered when they need to do the weekly clean and linen change.
Who is responsible for cleaning and changing linen?
The Host Family should provide clean bed linen once a week. Please be aware that some students, especially the younger ones and particularly in the early stages of their stay, may need help changing their bed linen. Of course, as their confidence grows and as they become more familiar with routines, you will find that they learn to become more independent.
The Host Family is expected to provide a basic clean of the student’s room once a week but the guest will be responsible for keeping their room tidy.
The Host Family should also offer to wash one load of clothes per week. Alternatively the Host Family should provide all necessary for the student to do this. Again, please be conscious that some students may need assistance in operating your washing machine.
The guest will be responsible for providing their own towels and toiletries. However, it might be advisable to have spare towels available if convenient.
What requirements are there in terms of hot water, heating and lighting?
Please remember that many students are coming from countries with very different climates to the UK’s. Many students from hot countries will feel the cold a lot more than British people. For example, it is not uncommon for families abroad to have the heating on all day and night.
Similarly, international students may have different bathing habits and may not be accustomed to quick showers in the morning. Instead they may be used to baths in the evenings or more than one shower a day.
Please be conscious of such potential differences, and where necessary use the Ground Rules to avoid any misunderstandings.
As a basic requirement, please ensure that there is adequate hot water for one daily shower and enough heating and lighting, especially in the student’s room. Providing additional blankets will be a suitable alternative to having the heating on all night.
Will the student expect to use my home telephone and/or internet?
Use of the telephone is exclusively at the discretion of the Host Family. Many Host Families allow students to receive incoming calls only. If you are comfortable with your student making outgoing telephone calls, then a good option is an international calling card. Calling cards are available at most local shops and your student can buy one that has a certain credit limit (e.g. £5, £10 etc).
The majority of the schools and clients we work with will expect internet to be provided as part of the Homestay package.
Students need internet to be able to study, research London and keep in contact with friends and family back home. International students are as active on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter as UK students. Many international students will have a Skype telephone account which will allow them to make free international phone calls via their laptops when connected to the internet.
The majority of students will specifically request to be placed in a Homestay where there is at least Broadband access, with a strong preference for Wireless Broadband.
You will be able to give students the Pass Code to your Wi-Fi internet account so that the student can connect wirelessly to the internet from anywhere in the home.
Different internet accounts will come with different monthly download limits. Internet accounts that offer unlimited download can still be subject to a Fair Use policy. Host Families are advised to consult their internet service provider regarding any download limit on their own account before allowing a student to use the internet. If you wish to monitor internet use at any time thereafter, your internet service provider should also be able to advise you on how close you are to your download limit at any time in any given month.
Host Families are also strongly advised to include guidelines on use of the internet in the Ground Rules provided to any student.
Is my student allowed to bring guests into the home?
Some students may, from time to time, ask to bring a friend to the home. This might be a friend or family member from home who perhaps already lives in London, a classmate, or a boyfriend or girlfriend.
This should only be allowed where the student has the advance permission of the Host Family and, once again, it is strongly advised to make this clear in your Ground Rules.
Similarly, whether to allow a student to have an overnight guest is at the sole discretion of the Host Family.
What happens if my student wants to open up a bank account using my home address?
You may be asked by your student if they can open up a bank account using your home address. This is at the discretion of the Host Family. If your student is staying with you short term, then we would advise that you do not allow your student to open up an account with your address.
If the student is here longer term then you may wish to consider allowing them to do this. Living in London without a UK bank account can be impractical and expensive for the student and may mean that they ask to be relocated to a Homestay where this is possible. Whether you allow the student to do this is at your sole discretion and HFS London will not ask you to do this if you are not comfortable with it.
If you are happy for a student to open an account registered at your address, then you are strongly advised to ensure that the student has closed it before they leave you if they are flying back home or have the address changed to their new address if they are moving to another accommodation within the UK. Many Host Families will ask the student to confirm this to them by way of a letter from the bank.
Should you have any concerns regarding issues around student bank accounts, please contact HFS London directly.
What is expected of me in terms of monitoring the welfare of my student?
The Host Family should notify HFS London of any concerns relating to their student’s welfare during their time in the home. Examples include non-attendance at class, illness/health issues and general homesickness. In such a scenario HFS London will inform the student’s place of study and will endeavour to resolve any such issues promptly and with sensitivity.
Please note that students aged over 18 should be allowed to stay out late or even spend the night away from home. They should, however, always advise you if they are going to be late for meals or home very late.
Should the Host Family have any emergency concerns about their student’s welfare, the Host Family should contact HFS London on the emergency contact number provided at the time of booking. This number should only be used for concerns of such urgency that they cannot wait to be dealt with during office hours (Monday to Friday 9:30am to 6pm).
Where a student is under 18 years old the Host Family will be required to provide a current CRB or DBS certificate. If the host family does not have one this can be organised through HFS London. This process will be explained in more detail during the registration process. Please contact us if you have questions at the registration stage.
Although it is very rare that we place students under 16 years old, there may be further responsibilities in the supervision of such students e.g. collection at meeting point near the home. Any such responsibility will be duly communicated to the Host Family in advance to inform their decision as to whether to accept the booking.
Whatever the age of the student it is imperative that the Host Family is present in the home for the duration of the placement. If you expect to be away from your home for more than 24 hours while a student is with you, please inform HFS London immediately. Depending on the circumstances, HFS London may have to relocate the student.
What should I do if the details of my Homestay change?
Should the description of your accommodation change in any way whatsoever please inform us in writing immediately, so that we can change your details on our database.
Examples include where you have a new pet, significant changes to students’ rooms or living areas or additional people in the home
If you do not do so, this could result in us placing a student with you who may have matched your original details but may not match your new ones. This may mean we have to relocate your student without any compensation to you as a Host Family.
HFS London is required to carry out periodic re-inspection visits as part of our obligations to our clients. We will ask for your cooperation in such instances and will endeavour to provide as much notice as possible where this is required.
What are my responsibilities in terms of tax and insurance?
It is the Host Family’s responsibility to meet any tax liability incurred as a result of hosting HFS London students. HFS London will not report hosts’ earnings to the Inland Revenue and will not be involved in Host Family’s personal tax matters unless we are required to by law.
Currently the amount that a Host Family is entitled to earn from making available rooms in their home without any tax liability is £7,500.00 per annum.
If a student admits liability for damaging property in the home, HFS London will contact the student directly or through his/her place of study to attempt to recover the costs of the damages on your behalf. In practice damages to property are a rare occurrence. However, when they do occur we are relying on the integrity of the student to be able to recover costs for the Host Family.
What are my responsibilities in terms of Gas Safety and Smoke alarms?
HFS London will request to see a current valid gas safety certificate for the property as per Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. This is to ensure that the property has been inspected by a Gas Safe Registered engineer.
In signing the Host Family Agreement, the Host Family accepts full responsibility for arranging maintenance by a Gas Safe Registered engineer for all pipe work, appliances and flues; including arranging annual gas safety checks to be carried out by a Gas Safe Registered engineer once a year.
The Host Family will also need to ensure that smoke alarms are provided and maintained during the time that any guest is placed in the home.
What is your complaints procedure?
Any complaint by the Host should be made in writing to HFS London’s Accommodation Manager.
We will respond to any complaint by host within 24 hours. We will call the guest concerned as soon as possible to try to ascertain their perspective on the complaint. If we feel the issue is resolvable we will suggest that the host and guest talk through the issues directly.
If we deem the complaint to be urgent we will aim to resolve the issue as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours. For complaints deemed by us to be non-urgent, please allow up to 7 working days for them to be resolved.
HFS London undertakes to act impartially to mediate between the student, host, school and any other party involved. We may be required to carry out a re-inspection visit at the home of the Host at short notice. In this scenario we would ask for your co-operation to arrange a mutually convenient time to do this.
HFS London reserves the right to move any student should a complaint be made by either Host or student. If a student is re-housed following a complaint by either party, the Host will be paid until the last day that the student is in the home.