A nanny works in a private home, providing day-to-day care of a child or children for a family. A nanny’s responsibilities will vary considerably according to the age and needs of the children and depending on how much time they are employed to work for. Some nannies live in their employer’s house, providing for all the child/ children’s daily needs whilst others will live out, working full or part time hours.
Nannies are responsible for the day-to-day care of a child or children – they work with one family at a time (although some nannies may divide their week between a number of families) providing all or some of the required childcare during the day depending on the family's needs. Nannies usually work on their own, but sometimes they will work with parents or other carers, particularly if there is a large number of children in the family. Some nannies are known as ‘maternity nannies,’ specialising in the care of newborn babies under twelve weeks old. These nannies are equipped with more specialist skills to work with a family for a very short amount of time, providing child care for the first few weeks of the baby’s life.
Nannies typically earn between £15,000 and £18,000 per annum although this will vary depending on each individual family, the geographical area and whether the nanny is employed through an agency or directly by a family.
A nanny’s responsibilities will vary according to the age of the children she (or less commonly, he) works with. If the children are babies or very young, the nanny’s responsibilities will be to provide for all of their basic needs. This will include:
- Changing nappies
If the children are older and can feed and dress themselves the nanny’s responsibilities are more likely to include:
- Taking the children on outings
- Dropping the children at school or playgroup
- Helping the children with their school work
- Teaching basic social skills
- Playing with and entertaining the children
- Organising crafts and other activities
- Assisting with the mental and physical development of the children
Being a nanny could also involve more what are known as ‘nursery duties’ – any jobs which are associated with the daily care of an infant or child such as:
- Preparing meals
- Washing sheets
- Tidying the nursery
- Washing clothes
It is possible to find work without a formal qualification, but most employers will look for a nanny with a relevant child care diploma or certificate of education such as:
- CACHE Certificate or Diploma in Childcare and Education – this provides knowledge and training on providing care for children under eight years old, including children with special needs.
- CACHE Level 3 Diploma in Home-based Childcare – this provides knowledge and training on providing care for children aged 0 to 16.
- BTEC Certificate or Diploma, levels 2 and 3 in Children’s Care, Learning and Development – this is a more general childcare qualification, providing knowledge and training on good practice in various childcare settings (not specific to being a nanny)
A first aid certificate specifically designed for those working with children is also a favourable qualification to have. Relevant qualifications are offered by most higher education institutions but there are also a number of ‘nanny schools’ across the country which work to provide specialist training for nannies. Norland College is the most famous nanny school, a prestigious institution whose nannies are in very high demand.
As well as having a love of children, nannies need to be well-equipped with a wide range of skills which will prepare them for the daily challenges of looking after children. These include:
- A specific interest in the personal and social development of children
- A trustworthy character
- The ability to establish good working relations with parents, children and other carers
- A responsible attitude to the job
- The ability to cope well under pressure
- The ability to stay calm in stressful or challenging situations
- A willingness to engage in domestic activities such as washing and tidying
- A creative approach and good imagination
- The ability to plan stimulating activities
- Good organisational abilities
- An awareness of potential dangers to children
- A basic knowledge of first aid for children
- Patience and tolerance
- A good sense of humour
- A commitment to the job and hardworking attitude
- Good interpersonal skills
- A range of practical abilities
- High levels of energy and stamina
- A reasonable level of physical fitness
- A flexible attitude and willingness to work extra hours at short notice
Experience is very important for finding work as a nanny – even more important than having relevant qualifications as employers will usually require a good reference from a previous employer. Any experience working with children, even if it is not in a nannying capacity will be useful. This could include working in a school or youth group, babysitting or helping in a playgroup. Most relevant qualifications include a mandatory work placement but if not, it is useful to arrange a placement independently.
There are various agencies which specialise in finding jobs for nannies, but families will often advertise privately through local or national newspapers or by word of mouth. It is worth noting that working through an agency is a good way to ensure employees' rights although it tends to be more lucrative to be employed directly by the family.
Nannies are based in a family’s private home so their working conditions are largely dependent upon each individual family. Some nannies live in, meaning their work will often extend beyond the standard 37.5 hour week. Others will work during the day time and live out or they might work part time hours, perhaps working before and after the school day.
With a relevant diploma or childcare certificate, nannies can go on to do further training to improve their job prospects and progress into other areas of childcare if desired. Once employed, many nannies begin working towards an NVQ level two or three in Children’s Care, Learning and Development, or may even go on to do a BA Honours degree in childcare or similar subject. With an NVQ or similar qualification, nannies could go on to work as a nursery nurse or begin training in social work or other caring professions.
Leigh Thornton is 23 years old and has been a full time nanny since she finished university two years ago. She gives us the inside story ...
I started working as a nanny part time whilst studying at university and as I enjoyed it so much I decided to work full time once I had finished my degree. As a nanny I don’t really have a typical day – every day has its own challenges and it all depends on the age(s) of the children I am looking after. In general my day involves getting the babies/ children ready and giving them breakfast. Then the rest of my day is a mixture of playing games, going to playgroups, taking them to the park, and doing messy things like painting and sticking. If the children are still very young then I spend my day interacting with them and helping them develop their mental and physical abilities. I also spend a lot of my day doing nursery duties, a term used for any jobs a mum would usually do that involve the baby – this could be cleaning the baby’s room, changing sheets, washing the baby’s clothes, changing nappies etc.
I enjoy most things about my job, but the best bit is seeing the children grow and develop and seeing the influence I have on their lives. I think the only thing I dislike about my job is when the babies cry for no reason and all I can do is listen to them crying for ages when nothing I do makes a difference. To anyone thinking of doing this job, I would advise that they spend a lot of time around children to see if they have enough patience to work with one or two children for nine or ten hours a day, as it sometimes does try your patience. I am currently completing my training as a maternity nurse which is full time care of babies under twelve weeks. I have progressed to this through working with infants and finding that I prefer to care for them. A final tip for all prospective nannies is to find a group of mums whom you get along with, as mums are the best people to spread the word about your work!