By Natalie Martin
Harmony at Home is amongst the most trusted and loved childcare and nanny agencies in London, the UK and all around the world.
With a comprehensive range of high quality and flexible childcare options, Harmony at Home takes the trouble to meet the needs of every single parent – and find the perfect solution to fit their lifestyle and needs.
Through the agency you can find qualified help, both native English speaking as well as bilingual to match any preferences.
Agency Franchise Owner Suzanna Harwood joined Harmony at Home in 2010 and was later joined by Judy Paish, who works in the role of Recruitment Consultant.
Experienced tutor, governess, and nanny of over 30 plus years, Suzanna is keen to understand each client’s requirements, before working with Judy to find the perfect match.
“We feel that we are one of the best international agencies, specialising in governesses, tutors, and nannies,” Suzanna told Greek City Times in a recent interview.
“Unlike other large agencies that employ many staff, we are a small personal franchise and put a lot of time and effort into making sure that the family and candidate are well matched.”
Suzanna answers our questions about her agency, the process of hiring and why she believes her agency to be the international nanny and childcare specialists.
What are some tips for hiring a governess, tutor or nanny?
I am sure that a majority of parents are confused by how many childcare agencies there are. Many have been operating for years and are well established, while some are relatively new.
A crucial key when choosing a nanny agency to hire a governess, private tutor or nanny, is to choose one that has experienced staff, preferably people that have worked in the role themselves.
Another key is not to register with too many agencies, otherwise, the client will be inundated with CVs, thereby making the selection process very confusing.
Do you believe that your own previous childcare experience helps your clients when they are hiring a governess, private tutor or nanny?
At Harmony at Home International, we pride ourselves in the fact that both Judy and I are still working within the childcare sector, and therefore have a unique view from both sides of the desk.
We have both worked for VIP families, in a considerable number of diverse cultures internationally for many years. I live and work overseas in the Middle East, whilst Judy is at home in the Cotswolds working in after-school childcare and education.
Our hands-on day to day experience with the children that we care for is complemented by our awareness of the needs and concerns of the parents who come to us at Harmony for childcare staff.
What factors do you consider when hiring a governess or other childcare specialist?
First and foremost, every single Harmony at Home nanny, maternity nurse, and child carer undergoes a strict vetting and interview process before they can register with the agency.
Before they can register with us, all childcare candidates undergo a stringent interview process including multiple reference checks.
All candidates have been personally interviewed by us, and have undergone a thorough check on their identification, qualifications, and references.
We provide details about the nanny’s first aid qualifications and enhanced DBS (formally a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau)) check.
We look for qualified child carers with a minimum of 5 years’ post qualifying experience. It is also important to us that they have a proven commitment to childcare and enjoy working with children, along with a passion and desire to work internationally.
Excellent references, of course, are a major priority when selecting our governess, tutor and nanny candidates, and we always follow up written references with direct references from the past employers.
Experience working within a private household is of major importance for all the roles. There is often a choice nowadays where the candidate can choose to live in or out of the house.
Where babies are involved, it is more common for the mother to prefer the nanny to live in, so therefore experience working closely within a family is important for a candidate.
All of our governess and tutor candidates are qualified educators with at least 5 years’ experience in this field.
A smiley happy face when working with children, plus a pleasant personality is crucial for any role.
Can you tell us a bit about the process involved in finding a suitable childcare candidate?
We shortlist candidates, by making a checklist of the position requirements and then filtering out those candidates who do not fit all of these.
Once we have a shortlist we usually Skype with the candidates, and sometimes the list will change again, according to the degree of suitability of each candidate determined after the interview.
Alongside the job requirements, the candidates must have a current DBS and be on the update service; and must also have a 12-hour Paediatric First Aid Certificate or be willing to obtain one.
Each candidate must provide at least two professional written references, one of which must be their current or last employer who are immediately contactable either by phone or email.
We then present the shortlist to our clients for their consideration.
Sometimes we also vet the client to ensure that they are a reputable family. This research is only for our information and peace of mind, especially as most clients are from abroad.
What are the differences between a governess and a private tutor?
The main difference between a governess and a tutor is that a governess is responsible for the full-time education and social skills of the children, whereas a tutor is a qualified teacher who gives supplementary education outside the conventional education system, usually to help underachievers or to improve the level of high achievers.
Often tutors are employed on an hourly basis, but many are now also employed on a full-time basis, which is particularly useful when a family is travelling.
Another popular position is that of a tutor/ nanny, which combines extra tuition with social skills training and some basic nanny duties, such as being responsible for the children’s clothes and so on.
A nanny, on the other hand, is an individual person who provides care for one or more children in a family.
Today, modern nannies, like other domestic workers, may live in or out of the house depending on their circumstances and those of their employers.
Professional nannies are usually certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, qualified in First Aid, and have a degree or extensive training in child development.
Why do you have such a good reputation for getting childcare hire right, the first time?
We believe that we are one of the best international childcare agencies.
Unlike other large agencies that employ many staff, we are a small personal franchise and we put a lot of time and effort into making sure that the family and candidate are well matched.
The key factor in matching candidates to prospective children and families is that all parties are happy.
It is important when a client contacts Harmony to discuss all options and listen carefully to their requirements.
If it takes a little longer than anticipated to find the right person for the job, it’s better to wait rather than placing an unsuitable candidate to impress the family or claim the commission.
If you have worked in this field you would realise just how important this is, and how things can go badly wrong, causing unnecessary stress and upheaval for both the family and the children.
The job is after all about caring for children first and foremost, getting on with the family and any other staff.
It’s not our main priority to make lots of money; we prefer satisfied clients and candidates.
Both Suzanna and Judy would be delighted to assist you with finding the right person to match your requirements and your family perfectly, the first time around.