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What is the difference between a Nanny and a Governess?

Are you looking to hire a Nanny or Governess to care for your child or children?  Not sure what the difference is between the two?  Don’t worry.  It is a common question within the childcare industry and nowadays, some families want the best of both that one candidate can provide.  Yet the two roles are distinctively different in the duties they perform, the age group each covers and outcomes achieved.

Throughout this article, we provide a brief insight into the difference between a Nanny and a Governess, to enable you to make more of an informed decision, to which role type would benefit your child or children, first and foremost, and your family as a whole.  You can also click on the links below for additional information:

While both a Nanny and a Governess have your child’s best interest at heart, where Every Child Matters - the duties, purpose of the role and expected outcomes are somewhat different. Yet no matter which you opt for, both will ensure your child or children are safe, healthy, happy and well-cared for under their charge, both inside and outside of the home.

So, what’s the main difference between a Nanny and a Governess?

A Nanny’s main focus is to provide a safe, happy and nurturing environment whilst attending to all nursery duties for the child or children in their care, throughout their working day.  They are expected to undertake light housekeeping duties for the children only, unless, this is carried out by domestic household staff employed by the family.  A Governess, on the other-hand has a more defined role relating to their charges academic and personal accomplishments and development, and is therefore, both an educator and mentor.  They do not perform any domestic duties nor do they care for babies or very young children, but those of school age, usually around 5 years of age and upward.   

Why is a Nanny best for my child?

Nannies are perfect for families with babies through to school age who are seeking all-round care with duties and responsibilities that would normally be performed by the mother or/and father.  They also take care of the child’s physical, social and emotional needs, and overall well-being. A Nanny will create a warm, caring and happy home environment that nurtures your child’s development through age appropriate activities ensuring each milestone is reached.  Just like a Governess, they will set clear boundaries and instil good behaviour, manners and respect.  

What duties does a Nanny perform?

Of course, this will vary pending the unique requirements of the family, and whether there is other household staff employed to oversee some duties, such as cleaning or cooking. Below are the main duties that a Nanny will perform throughout the working day or/and week:

  • Responsible for the safety, health and well-being of children in his or her care

  • Be a good role model for the children at all times

  • Get children up, washed and dressed

  • Make breakfast and clear up afterwards

  • Organise school bag (reading books, PE & swim wear)

  • Take children to and from school

  • Undertake light housekeeping duties, such as the children’s laundry (wash, dry, iron and put away clothes), change bedsheets, dust and hoover areas used by the children

  • Sanitise children’s toys regularly

  • Provide play based learning for the very young and introduce the alphabet, phonics, number, shape and colour skills etc., through songs/poems and other methods

  • Read and listen to children read daily

  • Plan and organise activities, such as arts and crafts, birthday parties, visits to the museum, arrange play dates and more in-line with the child’s age

  • Make sure homework is completed on time, providing support and guidance

  • Liaise with professionals instructed by parents in their absence, to include but not limited to - meetings with school teachers and attending school events; arranging appointments with the doctor, eye specialists, private tutors and so-forth

  • Prepare and cook food for the children; ensure a healthy and balanced diet; if a chef is employed, then the Nanny may need to advise and plan a healthy diet for the week ahead with them, at the parents' request

  • Administer medication upon receipt of written permission by parents and as instructed by the doctor

  • Provide first aid and deal with emergency situations that may arise

  • Keep parents updated on a regular basis

Nanny Qualifications

Qualified Nannies (for example, NNEB & NVQ) provide parents with peace of mind knowing that the Nanny they hire, has acquired the necessary pedagogical skills and understanding to provide full care in the parents absence. Experienced Nannies, however, without formal qualifications have a lot to offer families and will have developed their skills over many years from working within the industry. Some, may even be mothers themselves. To see a list of just some of the most recognised qualifications in the industry, click the following link: Nanny Qualifications  and scroll down to the bottom of the page, where you will find a list of childcare qualifications. All Nannies and other childcare staff should possess a Paediatric First Aid certificate prior to starting employment, or willing to obtain one along with a clear Enhanced DBS.

Why hire a Governess for my child?

If education is high on the agenda for you, and your child is of school age (5+), then a Governess may be the ideal solution, and the preferred choice for many families who travel regularly, sometimes for extended periods. They are responsible for the academic, social and cultural development of your child. Whether you have a child who is under performing at school and needs assistance with closing the gap in areas of weakness, lacks confidence, or a child of higher ability that requires more challenging work - a Governess can help keep their love of learning alight.  They can also prepare children for exams and Common Entrance Tests to enter prestigious independent schools for those who come from a professional teaching background.

What duties is a Governess responsible for?

The specific duties and areas of teaching and learning will vary tremendously from one family to another, and the degree to which lessons are delivered in a formal or informal manner, or a mixture of both.  As a Governess, a balance of the two is the norm when employed for a full day.  It provides a more holistic approach which is much more beneficial and develops the whole child. A general overview of duties performed by a Governess is to:

  • Teach English (reading and writing), Mathematics, as well as other subjects such as Science, Humanities, Physical Education and the Arts

  • Teach languages and a musical instrument or by employing specialist tutors for these

  • Provide support with homework and give additional lessons to extend and enhance learning beyond that covered at school

  • Ensure resources are plentiful to carry out lessons, e.g books, arts and crafts, games

  • Liaise with teachers at school and specialist tutors who teach within the home

  • Visit places of interest, such as museums and art galleries to develop learning and understanding of the world around us

  • Accompany and participate when required in a range of sporting and extra-curricular activities

  • Communicate regularly with parents on child’s progress, behaviour and overall well-being

  • Travel with family if and when required, and incorporate different locations into the learning process

  • Teach good manners, instil behaviour and social etiquette skills

  • Ensure the child is safe, healthy, happy and well-cared for at all times

  • Be an outstanding role model

Do Governesses possess formal qualifications?

While there are no formal Governess qualifications, a Governess is expected to posses an excellent academic background, most notably a Bachelor or Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree any subject area, or higher (Master’s/PhD); many will also have qualified as teachers (PGCE/B.Ed). Those with such qualifications make them ideal to assist with areas of education mentioned above and are most highly sought after by families. Another reason is because they have school experience and are familiar with the curriculum, lesson planning and delivery of lessons to assessments, and all whilst keeping accurate records of the child’s work and their progress. There are also Governesses who enter the profession after spending many years as a Nanny, with many holding a nationally recognised childcare qualification (NNEB/NVQ…). If you need a Governess simply to improve English as a second language through daily immersion, then the latter may suffice.


While the role of a Nanny and a Governess is distinctively different, not just in the ages they cover, the duties they perform to the academic background that candidates possess, but the demand from some families to combine the role of both. The same can be said for a Governess and a Tutor, or a Nanny and a Tutor.  These are just some of the combinations that you may see agencies advertise on behalf of families.  As a result, I can understand why many people often ask “What is the difference between a Nanny and a Governess?” The fact remains, they are distinctively different and I would highly recommend speaking with a consultant - a professional with industry experience, especially when it comes to your child’s education. No two family requirements are the same, and each child is unique, has their own personality, individual needs and learning styles.  As an agency with such industry experience, we take time to get to know our families and learn more about your child, or children through consultation, to enable us to match the right Nanny or Governess to meet the needs, expectations and outcomes that you want to achieve for you as a family, and more importantly, your child.

Contact us today for a private and confidential consultation, to see how we may be of service to you, in helping you find the right Nanny or Governess for your child.  We also place Qualified Teachers and degree educated Tutors, as well as other household staff, including those who are bilingual in all Childcare, Educational and Household staffing roles.

Telephone: +44 (0) 207 193 8343



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