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For more than a century, Norland College in Bath, England, has trained young women to be elite caregivers to the world's wealthiest children. This year, though, the famous nanny school is taking on something new: a male student.
Michael Kenny, 18, is the first young man to enroll in the elite school's Bachelors of Arts program in Early Childhood Studies, which they offer in association with the University of Gloucestershire.
"I have always wanted to work with children and Norland has the best reputation in the country, if not the world, for studying childcare," Kenny told ABC News in a statement. Being the only man in the 48-student class "doesn't bother me at all," he says.
After teaching English and mathematics to severely disabled children in Uganda, where he lived with his family, Kenny knew he wanted to go to Norland, but wasn't sure if they even accepted male students. He called to check before applying.
Read on to learn more about Michael's pioneering journey.
"I wanted to work with children because I can understand young people a lot better. I find them a lot easier to get on with," he told The Telegraph. "I think I would like to be a nanny for a few years, because it is the whole reason you go through the training. But then after that I would like to do a PGCE and become a nursery teacher or work in a prep school."
More than 7,000 nannies have graduated from the school, which was founded in 1892 by Emily Ward and originally called The Training School for Ladies as Children's Nurses. These days, a degree from Norland involves more than simply learning how to read a book upside down — though students at Norland are taught how to do that, too. There are classes on nutritional theory, cooking, sewing, sign language, social sciences, health, history, and early childhood education. Last week, students started their Norland education with self-defense courses, a look at the school's Code of Professional Responsibilities, and a hog roast in the college gardens, the school reported on its website. This week: food hygiene, confidentiality, and how to use the college library.
Students at Norland must adhere to the school's dress code — a plain, tan dress with a white Peter Pan collar, white gloves, and a classic, dark brown pork-pie hat emblazoned with a large N. The school's founder, Emily Ward, insisted on the uniform so that Norland graduates would not be mistaken for run-of-the-mill housekeeping staff. For Kenny, the school special-ordered a tweed jacket and a pair of beige pants, along with a white shirt and tan necktie. (No word on whether he'll have to wear the hat or the gloves.)
Though Kenny will be the first man to graduate with a Bachelor's degree, guys have enrolled in diploma courses at Norland before. In 2005, after two years of training and a year-long probationary period, Peter Cummins of Dyfed, Wales, earned a childcare certificate there "with merit," and in 1999 Katsuki Yuzawa participated in an international diploma course at the school.
"All children benefit from male role models," Cummings told the U.K. Telegraph in 2002. "In a family where the father works away a lot or the mother is on her own, I can fill the gap. It's not just about playing football, it's about providing an unthreatening male figure that children can relate to. I'm a very patient person, I don't get flustered by a crying baby."
Kenny says he was drawn to Norland for similar reasons.
"I don't think it should be thought of as unusual if a man wants to work in the childcare profession," he told ABC News in a statement. "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."
Graduates have gone on to become more than just nannies to the rich and famous; Norland alumni also work as maternity nurses, teachers, and nursery managers. And Norland College principal Liz Hunt says Kenny would have no trouble landing a job after graduation.
— Lylah M. Alphonse
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