Norland College has been training high-class nannies for over one hundred years, and its fees reflect the level of excellence it demands from its students. Not only is the college responsible for bringing out some of the country’s most well-qualified and experienced nannies, but also for preparing them to hold down other prestigious positions such as au pairs and housekeepers. Parents who want to hire staff trained by Norland can expect to pay a maximum of £200,000 a year – about double what some nannies might earn.
The students come from all over: America, Australia, and China as well as across Europe, their dreams fuelled by the College’s gleaming reputation and the promise of its global alumni network.
But it’s not just an issue of socializing with other girls at college; there is also a thorough overhaul of their identities while they are here. The students become ‘Norlanders’. They learn to look at everything through what they call ‘the Norland lens’ – even when working away from their former teachers, friends, and fellow students.
For the next three years, they are Norland nannies, with a duty to uphold not just their own high standards but those of the College too. ‘We try to teach them that when you go out into the world in your uniform, in your car with your license plate NCC1, people will make judgments about you on sight,’ explains training director Penny Knowles. With this in mind, students are sent on practice job interviews before they even leave college. At the end of their course, they spend eight weeks in paid jobs all over the world before being interviewed again by Norland for final assessment.
‘This is not about being a nanny, this is about becoming an English Norland Nanny,’ says Mrs. Knowles. ‘It takes up to 18 months before they are offered the chance to work for some of our clients because there is so much scrutiny and checking that goes on.’ She makes it clear that only the best will do: ‘You can always spot one of our former students. They are very distinct in how they look after children; the way they act; their immaculate uniforms; their manners. That’s what we teach them here. The rest comes with experience.’
This is all part of the Norland philosophy, developed by the college’s founder Emily Ward in 1892. Her first recruits were high-born ladies from good homes who had been seen as failures for marrying inappropriate men – often soldiers – so they could be trained to teach upper-class families “good” behaviors such as table etiquette, flower arranging, and how to behave at dinner parties. No wonder it has long been a favorite for Princess Diana wannabes – including one of her sisters – but today this rigorous regime is considered equally suitable training for nannies whose charges will include princes and princesses rather than mere rock stars or oil sheiks.
To help their charges to fit into society, Norland’s maids are trained in everything from hairdressing and setting a table to how to address a duchess – a key part of a Norlander helping children develop.
The training has changed little over the decades – if anything it is stricter – with special attention paid to nutrition and hygiene, as well helping nannies learn how “to keep cheerful through dark days”. The college runs an annual baking competition to ensure its nannies know their way around a kitchen. And those who might think that this is just for those wanting domestic staff should think again: the college also produced professional chefs for Buckingham Palace until 2009.
The first male nanny trainee was accepted in February 1999, and the first male undergraduate was enrolled in 2012.
More info: Norland College