During the Victorian era, governesses were a common sight in both literature and daily life as they educated children in the comfort of their own homes. Now, in the midst of the pandemic, governesses are experiencing a surge in demand from wealthy families who want to ensure their children’s education does not suffer despite classroom closures and remote learning.
Recruitment agencies such as Duke & Duchess International, Nanny & Butler Bespoke Services, and London Governess have reported a significant increase in requests for governesses. These educators can earn between £700 and £1,300 per week while tutoring children from affluent or even famous families.
The rising trend in hiring governesses is exacerbating concerns about the increasing inequality experienced by disadvantaged children. While it has become a fashionable luxury for high-net-worth families, Carrie-Ann Pryke, founder and director of Duke & Duchess, comments that there has been an increase in demand for governesses from working parents who also require homeschooling assistance.
Several individuals have resorted to online tutors, but families, including those who are shielding due to health conditions, have also hired governesses to isolate with them during lockdown so that they can oversee their children’s education.
According to Pryke, her company has observed a 38% increase in demand for candidates to assist families with education. Furthermore, she also noted an 86% increase in applications from candidates with a degree in secondary education and a 71% growth in candidates with a master’s degree. Among the people looking for jobs are supply teachers.
London Governess, owned by Vesna Godart, has also observed a similar surge in demand. Godart stated that they saw a substantial increase in the previous six months, and they currently have several clients who are working from home and cannot follow school online while needing to work, prompting them to hire governesses for assistance. During the lockdown, they also received more calls from families who had relocated to Dubai.
A modern-day governess must have a teaching license and is responsible not only for supporting the child’s educational requirements but also for providing broader mentoring, cultural, and extra-curricular activities outside of school hours. Usually, parents or nannies are in charge of caring.
Before lockdown, governesses were expected to provide assistance during school hours, tutor, help with homework, and other relevant activities. However, with schools closed to most children in various countries, governesses now find themselves responsible for imparting learning in online sessions.
According to Sara, working as a live-in governess for a family living in southwestern England, who preferred not to reveal her full name, her job is very challenging. Sara worked as a primary school teacher for two years before realizing it was not her ideal career path due to the workload and pressure that came with it. She also acknowledged that her friends who are still teachers are constantly stressed out.
Sara stated that the role of a modern governess is quite unusual, and it changes slightly among families. Some choose someone who is more resembling a fancy nanny, while others prefer to focus on the academic aspect.
Sara has worked for high-net-worth families globally, including non-UK royalty and Russian families, but has not worked with celebrity employers due to the added stress involved. Currently, she’s working for a family who had been shielding throughout the pandemic.
She lives in a cottage on the grounds and supports the learning of the family’s three children (who are aged six, eight, and ten) in full-time remote learning sessions. Whilst she has done tutoring, she didn’t like it as much. Getting to know the children in one family is her preference. She also confesses that although her job is well-paid, families have high expectations.
As a governess, I find that the role offers ample opportunity to spend quality time with the children while not explicitly serving as the nanny. The position fosters stronger bonds between us. Bonding is especially essential in the governess role as it necessitates immersion in the family’s life. Personally, I am quite cautious about this aspect.
Currently, there are numerous governess roles that require one to quarantine with the family and remain with them throughout the day. It is an enormous responsibility to shoulder.
I have four students right now that I am assisting with online education, and I noticed that all of them are struggling. While families who can afford the services of a governess or tutor can manage the pandemic’s challenges, my greatest worry is the parents who are unable to do so.