Job Focus: Governess / Governor
There has been a noticeable uptick recently in the number of people looking for a governess (or the male equivalent – a governor) to join their household staff. However, it has come to our attention that many people don’t know what the job entails – either they think it’s an outdated idiom taken from Dickensian fiction, or that it’s a nanny. Neither are correct.
Whilst it’s true that both a governess and a nanny are involved in the care of children, the roles are quite different. A nanny is more likely to look after babies, toddlers and young children, whereas a governess’s main role is to support the educational needs of school-age children, from primary right through adolescence. The right governess can have a huge impact on a child’s development.
This is obviously therefore very important, and the requirements can vary greatly from family to family. For example, they might need to provide additional education in areas where the child is struggling at school, or conversely if there’s a subject in which the child excels they might provide a higher level of learning than is available at school. They’ll also likely be responsible for extra-curricular activities such as educational visits to galleries or museums, or to organise and mentor the child in sporting activities. Having responsibility for teaching a second language or a musical instrument is also common, as well as instruction in developing good manners, composure and moral awareness.
Some families employ a governess to home-school their children entirely, whereas others will supplement a school education. Many families travel extensively, and a governess can provide continuity of care and education while travelling with the family, or at home while the principals are away.
Traditionally this role has been the preserve of ladies, but we live in a world of equal opportunities and the male governor is now more frequently seen. The duties and responsibilities of a governor are largely similar to that of a governess, but some feel that boys in particular will benefit from a male role model. They are especially in demand by single mothers and female couples.
Unsurprisingly, most governesses or governors will have a teaching background, and a good deal of educational training and experience. Usually an up-to-date working knowledge of the school curriculum appropriate for the country in which they’re based will be required, and it’s often desirable to have some passion and ability for sport, music or other wholesome nurturing activity.
Whilst the focus is clearly on education, there might well be some non-educational input from a governess/governor too, such as preparing meals, laundry, bedtime or morning duties and generally helping out with the children’s lives.
As with so many household roles, it’s impossible to compile a list of everything that a governess or governor might be asked to do. This is particularly true as we’re dealing with the development of children – an endless and multi-faceted subject if ever there was one. Nevertheless, typical responsibilities might include:
- Help with schoolwork, or acting as a tutor. This might just mean helping with homework or it could entail sole responsibility for the child’s education.
- Getting the children ready for the school day, driving them to and from school, interacting with teachers and tutors, attending parents’ evenings and generally supporting the children through their school years.
- Preparing lessons and organising coursework.
- Preparing meals and packed lunches, ensuring school uniforms are available and correctly worn, doing laundry and generally tidying up after the kids.
- Teaching music, a foreign language or sports.
- Organising educational trips and extra-curricular activities.
- Liaison with the parents (or indeed governesses/governors) of the children’s friends.
- Travelling with the family – either to look after and provide continuity of education (and entertainment) while the parents are working, or supporting the family on leisure trips such as skiing.
- Acting as a role model, providing discipline and helping with personal and cultural development.
- Nurturing the particular talents of the children and guiding them in how they grow and realise their potential.
- Working closely with the parents to see that all the children’s educational and other needs are met.
It is quite apparent that a governor or governess needs to be perfectly fitted to the family employing them – the needs of one family could be totally unlike the needs of another. That’s where we at Pembury Partners come in – we pride ourselves on our ability to define and meet the requirements of your household.