Meet the marvellous Mr Poppins
Michael Kenny, 18, is to become the first male student to take a degree at the famous Norland College, studying for a BA (Hons) in early childhood studies alongside 48 women. So what's it like to be the only man in the class?
THE LADY: How/why did you get into such a female-dominated profession?
MICHAEL: My family lives in Uganda, where I spent time working with a charity that repairs schools, and also teaching English and maths to disabled children in an orphanage. These experiences made me want to study for a degree in Early Years as a route into primary-school teaching. Doing the degree at Norland also gives me the qualification and skills to be able to work as a nanny, which extends the career options available to me even further.
Have you always wanted to work with children?
No, originally I wanted to join the police force, but a couple of years ago, following my experiences in Uganda, I changed my mind and decided that I wanted to work with children.
What do your friends and family think of your career choice?
They have all been really supportive, despite the odd joke from friends that comes my way.
Was it difficult getting a place as the first man at Norland?
Not at all. Being a male didn’t make any difference. I went through the same interview process and had the same opportunities as everyone else.
Have you encountered any prejudices?
Not at college and not in the main, but there has been some reaction from people who feel that nannying isn’t a man’s job. I don’t think it should be thought of as unusual if a man wants to work in the childcare profession. If I were studying to become a primary-school teacher, no one would think it was strange. But for some reason, working in Early Years education is seen very much as female territory, which I think is wrong. Men can bring a different dimension to childcare, and I think it is really important that even the youngest children have strong male role models.
What was the hardest obstacle you had to overcome?
I haven’t really been in childcare long enough to run into any obstacles.
What’s your dream nanny job – any celebrities you’d like to work for?
If Michael Caine’s children still needed a nanny, I would definitely apply.
What are the pros/cons of being a man in this profession?
The pros are that many families and Early Years settings and schools want a male role model for their children; the cons are that men have not always had the easiest time getting into childcare.
Did you enjoy being in a class full of women?
It hasn’t really affected me – it’s the course that’s important.
How do you see the world of male nannying evolving in the future?
I hope that more men seek to join the profession, so the stereotyping is lost.
Do you think of yourself as a poster boy for male nannying?
As in any sector of life, if something hasn’t been done before, there has to be a first. I do hope that in taking this option I can encourage other men interested in a career in Early Years not to shy away from it because they are worried about what people will think.
The history of Norland Nannies
With their beige coats, neat brown hats and white gloves, Norland nannies are a British institution. A bastion of high-quality childcare training since 1892 – when The Lady reported on its founding – Norland College has consistently turned out girls, and one boy, who go on to nanny for families all over the world. It has had several homes in its lifetime, starting in Norland Place, London, and now a Georgian townhouse in Bath.
The college’s founder, Emily Ward, implemented the uniform to differentiate her highly trained Norland nurses from the other staff in a household. It has undergone several changes in its history and most recently the brown belted dress with white collar has been supplemented by chinos and a polo shirt for practical work.
Students are measured for their uniform in the spring before they arrive. Once they’re wearing it, they are forbidden from talking on a mobile, or buying takeaway food or drink. Liz Hunt, the principal, told me that at Norland they ‘absolutely have to keep the tradition, but we must change with the times’.
The Institute was founded to offer specialist training and education to ‘gentlewomen’ who could adequately raise the next generation of the upper classes. Founder Emily Ward felt strongly that the children of Britain should be cared for by an ‘educated kind of girl’. Norland’s motto is ‘Love Never Faileth’ and a focus on creating a nurturing, loving environment is central to the philosophy.
Practical placements are an integral part of the BA (Hons) degree in Early Childhood Studies that Norland provides, and to graduate students must satisfactorily complete a probationary year with a family, only after which are they a ‘Norlander’ and receive the pretty little badge, which signifies their status.
For more information: 01225-904040, www.norland.co.uk
Other colleges and qualifications
Chiltern College This highly prestigious training college celebrated its 80th birthday last year and works closely with the charity Great Ormond Street Hospital for whom the students have organised fundraising events. The college is based in Reading and offers The Chiltern College and Nanny and Childcare Award, a two-year, fulltime course – successful completion means the student will be qualified to work as a nanny or in supervisory roles in a variety of childcare settings. For more details: 0118-947 1847, www.chilterncollege.com
Montessori Teaching and Childcare Diploma Montessori is a tried and tested favourite both nationally and internationally. There are many levels of qualification all the way up to teacher level. The ‘Learning by Doing’ philosophy is well-known and respected within the education world. Montessori Centre International offers various full-time and parttime courses: www.montessori.org.uk/mci_ training
Diploma in Childcare and Education The most widely recognised qualification, this is a full-time, two-year course that trains nannies in a child’s social, educational, emotional, intellectual, and physical needs, plus basic health and hygiene, and first aid.
BTEC National Diploma in Child Studies A number of collleges throughout the UK offer this full-time, two-year course. It places more emphasis on the academic rather than practical studies. The course includes modules for students interested in teaching, nursing and social work.
Daily tip from the lady archive
“THERE is great satisfaction to be had in properly ironed garments that look as if they have just come out of the shop window.”The Lady. You Can’t Iron? 19th February, 1953