Norland College is known as the most prestigious nanny-training school in the world. Based in Bath, England, they’ve helping turn out nannies who go on to work for oligarchs, the super-elite and, of course, the British royal family since 1892.
The college was founded by Emily Ward, who opened the school because there was no official childcare training at the time; instead, household staff were expected to look after children as part of their duties.
Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis’s nanny, Maria Borrallo, is a Norland-trained nanny, identified by her distinctive brown uniform, only worn to official affairs like a Royal Christening. The uniforms were actually created so that the nannies would not be mistaken for housemaids but nowadays, most Norlanders wear smart, practical civilian clothing to fit in with modern families.
Borrallo is more than just a child-minder to the royal heirs. Getting onto the prestigious Norland course isn’t easy-there’s tough competition and a lot of training required to become a highly-respected working member of the royal household.
The Admissions Process
For anyone who wants to become a royal nanny, the process starts by getting in to Norland College. According to the school's principal, Dr. Janet Rose, there are always more applicants than places and "approximately 30 percent of applicants will be unsuccessful."
While good high school grades are a must, Rose tells T&C that, "Amongst many traits, Norland nannies need to be loving, kind, honest, creative, responsible and organized so we look for candidates with these characteristics." She also said that it’s important that anyone who wants to be a Norland nanny should have childcare experience, so volunteering in a kindergarten class or babysitting is a good place to start.
Potential candidates who’ve made the cut then get invited for an assessment day. "The interview comprises a one on one interview and a group presentation," says Rose.
What skills are royal nannies-to-be taught?
Students at Norland College study for a three-year full-time bachelors degree (BA) Hons in Early Years Development and Learning alongside the very specialized Norland diploma. If you don’t pass every element of the Norland diploma you cannot use the professional title, "Norland Nanny" or "Norlander."
The three-year degree covers everything from child psychology and health, to philosophies of childhood education. Then, nannies-to-be spend a fourth year undergoing the intense training for the diploma, which, according to Rose, "prepares students for the practical aspects of the care and development of children in the early years."
Specifically, the training includes subjects such as how to teach math to pre-schoolers, what to do if a little prince refuses to eat breakfast, and how you might decorate a nursery for an eco-conscious couple. There are also virtual babies that are used for teaching. “Students can choose to take them home overnight before they complete 25 hours of newborn experience with real babies,” Rose said.
There are lessons on how to organize birthday parties and sleepovers, how to get children into good sleeping routines, and how to deal with temper tantrums. After all, a royal nanny can never be over-prepared. Getting mini royals to eat their vegetables is also covered, as is how to deal with outfit dramas, at say, a Royal Wedding.
According to Dr. Rose, “Students receive theoretical and practical nutrition and cookery training, including two hours of practical cookery classes each week as well as receiving two hours of sewing classes each week.”
There are additional professional skills taught as well-time management, how to work well in a team, and communication skills.
Modern royal nannies also receive specialized training in how to deal with dangerous situations.
Given that Norland nannies often go on to work for some of the most high-powered families in the world, they need to be armed with adequate knowledge in dealing with any situation-including dangerous ones.
One of the recent additions to the curriculum at Norland College has been security and anti-terrorism training, something Rose says is, “provided by former British military intelligence officers.”
It’s a half-day course about minimizing potential risks when out and about in public with children, whether you have, like Nanny Maria, a royal protection officer with you or not. They are also taught about cyber security, and how to manage threatening situations.
There’s a three-hour self-defense course available too, by an expert with a black belt in Taekwondo, which Rose says, "includes an emphasis on protecting their children who may be in buggies, prams, or walking."
Skid-pan driving, which is a kind of defensive-driving instruction, is also offered, so students can "learn something about driving under more treacherous conditions."
Liam Willett, a Norland College alumni, said the course was all about making nannies more vigilant. "I make a conscious decision to drive different routes to frequently visited locations and seek to find out information about new destinations before arrival so that I am aware of what I will be coming into."
So, how do Norland Nannies make it to the Palace?
The College is keen on getting their nannies ready for the working world with an eight-week program at the end of the course that includes a workshop on social etiquette run by Debrett’s (who specialize in everything from how to eat a pear correctly, to body language, addressing someone with a title, and more). It's particularly useful for aspiring royal nannies.
Nannies employed by the Palace, such as Nanny Maria, often have a wealth of experience (at least 10 years) under their belts before working with the royals. Complete dedication to the job is crucial, and working for a high-profile family means you are often under the spotlight yourself-so no skeletons in the cupboard.