Nannytax interviews NANNY OF THE YEAR 2019 Michelle Cuscack
Last month Nannytax co-sponsored the first ever Nanny of the Year Award at the Nursery World Awards 2019 and the well-deserved winner was Michelle Cusack. Read our interview with Michelle as we try to uncover the secrets to her success! From how she was inspired by the 'Every Child Matters' campaign to the steps she took to kickstart her nanny career, Michelle has some fantastic insights and advice to share.
Congratulations! How does it feel to be Nursery World’s first ever Nanny of the Year?
It feels like a real privilege to win this award, infact to even be nominated by my employers felt like a really nice gesture. On the night of the award ceremony I was reasonably calm to start with but then I became really nervous and excited. When I actually won, I couldn’t believe it. I was buzzing! When you’re a nanny your work is often not even recognised outside of the family you are employed by so to win this award in its very first year and to be included in an event that takes account of the whole early years and child care sector, is particularly special. Being Nursery World’s Nanny of the Year 2019 also feels like somewhat of a responsibility. I need to ensure that I continue to keep my practice to a high standard in order to deserve my title!
How did you find the interview process and the judging panel? We bet it was nerve-wracking!
The interview process was slightly nerve-wracking, you are right, but I had the opportunity to meet all of the judges before hand and guess what - they were all lovely, professional people! It really wasn’t as scary as I had imagined. I obviously knew that they were going to ask me about my work so I had done some preparation beforehand as you would with any interview. The judges made me feel relaxed and were very supportive throughout the whole process.
So what kick-started your nanny career? When and where did your nanny journey begin?
I decided to go back to college in my late 20s to study childcare and early years as I wanted to work in a nursery setting or similar. I knew that I wanted to work with young children once I started looking into adult social problems and behaviours. This was at a time when the Labour Government had brought out their ‘Every Child Matters’ initiative and they were investing in and campaigning for the early years sector. When I learnt about the increasing research that shows how many of these adult issues are a result of negative experiences in early childhood, I became interested in pursuing a career with young children. I went on to work in several early years settings before becoming a nanny.
What was it that appealed to you about nannying in comparison to other childcare professions?
Working as a nanny appealed to me because at the time I was looking for a life change. My existing job was very poorly paid so I was looking for a better salary and I wanted more autonomy and responsibility. When working in a daycare setting or school you only get to work with children for part of their day, being a nanny you can experience every aspect of a child’s care routine, learning and development and have much more involvement in their lives. Apart from actually becoming a parent yourself I think it is the best way to learn about children and utilise every aspect of your childcare training. The fact that there was the option to travel with work while nannying was also very attractive.
What steps did you take once you decided nannying was the path you wanted to take?
I looked at all the nanny job adverts I could and at several nanny agency websites to work out which roles suited me the most. I then got all my documentation in order, my qualification certificates and first aid training up-to-date etc and went for a meeting with a London based nanny agency to talk through my options and help decide which type of job roles I would like to go for.
What is your favourite part about being a nanny?
It goes without saying that I love working with children and I get to share loads of appropriate hugs and kisses with the young children I care for. Sadly- though often understandably due to safeguarding - these days this behaviour just isn’t welcome in many day care settings, even with babies. I think I like the challenge and the variety of my job role the most and the fact that there are many times when you have to think on your feet, use your initiative and trust yourself. In a group setting you have a team to assist you and everything is governed by policies and procedures. The job of a nanny is much more flexible and unpredictable and most of the time you are on your own. It can be quite stressful at times (the ‘terrible twos’ stage springs to mind) but when you get over the challenges successfully and help move children to their next stage of development - that’s where the real rewards come from.
What do you think are the top 5 qualities needed to be a great nanny?
- Kindness - having a genuine love of children
- A sense of humour - being fun and silly and being able to laugh (even when bordering on hysteria in those certain moments!)
- Having patience...a lot of patience!
- Being honest, trustworthy and reliable
- Being practical, efficient and using common sense
What would your advice be to any aspiring nannies out there?
Get some work experience with the age range you are interested in working with whether this be paid babysitting, voluntary work or a school work placement
Get qualified to at least level 3 - look at the various childcare qualifications on offer, the more qualifications you have the more attractive you will be to employers meaning you can demand a higher salary. The more you know about child development, the more interesting your job will be!
Make the most of your talents - Do you play a musical instrument or a sport, do you dance or speak a second language etc? You can pass these skills on to your charges.
Sign up with an organisation such as BAPN (British Association of Professional Nannies) In a job with no HR department, they’ve got your back. They provide loads of useful independent advice for nannies on legal matters, your rights, they can put you in touch with other nannies and mentors etc
Research the job market for nanny roles - where are the jobs you are interested in based? Do you want to work abroad? Would you want to live-in or live out? Find out what sort of job you are looking for from those available and then work towards catering your CV accordingly. You may need to learn some new skills. For example: Can you cook? Can you swim? Can you drive? If not, you may need to start learning!
The Nannytax team want to say a massive congratulations to Nanny of the Year Michelle Cusack and Highly Commended Nanny Lizzie Watts - you are both fantastic ambassadors for this industry. Well done to the other three finalists and thank you to everyone who entered for the first ever Nanny of the Year category at Nursery World Awards. This recognition for nannies amongst other Early Years professionals is a great achievement in itself. Do you know a nanny who deserves the next Nanny of the Year title? Keep an eye out for next year's Nursery World Awards 2020. Watch this space...