Why the world wants to hire our supernannies


Last updated at 20:57 03 January 2008

If Mary Poppins established the British nanny's reputation worldwide, then Supernanny has cemented it.

As a result, carers are being lured abroad by families seeking a very English upbringing for their children.

Industry experts say British nannies are rated as the best in the world by parents overseas - thanks to the no-nonsense approaches of their TV role models.

Channel 4's Supernanny series, in which child carer Jo Frost helps families deal with problem children, has already been exported to the U.S.

So eager are overseas families to secure a supernanny of their own, that pay and perks packages worth up to £80,000 are on offer.

Last year saw a 57 per cent increase in jobs abroad for British nannies, according to the childcare agency Tinies. That follows a 20 per cent increase the previous year.

International jobs account for 5 per cent of the work on the agency's books - and that proportion is growing.

It operates offices in Australia, New Zealand and Bermuda and also has a team in London dedicated to meeting foreign demand.

Competition is so fierce that parents are willing to beat wages on offer in the UK.

One family living in Moscow offered a British nanny a package worth almost £80,000 a year.

Tinies director Oliver Black said yesterday: "There is no doubt that the popularity of Jo Frost on Supernanny is one of the reasons why British childcarers are seen as the best.

"And historically we have the Mary Poppins image of the traditional British nanny.

"We are seeing parents, many from America and Russia, coming over to London for a week, taking a suite at a top hotel and interviewing several candidates.

"Bermuda is a particularly hotspot for us and we also have a local office in Australia and New Zealand.

"The Russian job was a particularly generous package but it is not unusual for the £40,000 barrier to be broken.

"We also find that when British families are moving abroad they want to take with them the childcare they are familiar with."

It is a different story at home. Experienced British nannies are so thin on the ground in London that they regularly command salaries in the region of £30,000.

Mr Black added: "There is an impact on supply in the domestic market. Girls going abroad do have an effect.

"There's a risk that good English nannies will be snapped up by people who have got disposable income abroad."

Europe's enlargement has increased the supply of qualified nannies, Mr Black said, but many arrivals tend to be young and relatively inexperienced.

British nannies who have years of practice are still in short supply, allowing them to command high wages.

An economic downturn in the UK would heighten the problem since fewer parents would have the means to compete with cash-rich families abroad.

Mr Black said: "During 2007 we dealt with 313 overseas jobs.

"That compares with just over 200 in 2006 which in itself was well up on 2005.

"Many of the British nannies stay in the jobs for several years, so I would estimate there are more than 5,000 working abroad at any one time."

Lucy Davis, 32, worked as a nanny in New York for a year before returning to the UK.

She was inundated with interest from American families.

"There is no doubt they wanted well-spoken and well-educated English nannies," she said.

"The popularity of Supernanny is certainly adding to that. When I said that I was English in the advert it really pushed people to getting in touch."

However, although it sounds glamorous, travelling the world as a nanny can be hard work.

"The parents can be very demanding and the children are often not as well behaved as English children," she added.

"Perhaps they are looking for English girls because they think they will bring a bit of discipline."