SOMERSET: They were once only required to push a pram and read a bedtime story to the children in their charge, but now, a new breed of nannies is being taught stunt driving and how to deal with paparazzi to prepare them for childcare in the 21st century.

Norland College in Bath, Somerset, which has been training professional nannies for the rich and famous since 1892, has added martial arts classes and skid pan training to its curriculum to meet the needs of modern wealthy parents.

Norland nannies are considered the most prestigious and are the favourites of royals, celebrities and the super-rich. But their Mary Poppins-style brown uniforms, felt hats and white gloves makes them instantly recognisable and vulnerable to robbers and kidnappers. Parents worried about their children being held for ransom or being chased by photographers are requiring their nannies to know how to deal with potential attackers as well as master the traditional skills of first aid, sewing and cooking.

The trainees - who pay £36,000 for the four-year BA Honours degree course - are now being taken to Castle Combe Racing Circuit in Wiltshire for lessons in how to drive at high speed in any weather conditions. The classes teach the nannies driving techniques, such as skid pan control, that will help them safely get away from pursuing photographers trying to take pictures of the children in their care. John Yeo, a driving instructor who normally trains bodyguards, said the nannies’ course he sets was “tough and realistic”. “We put them under as much pressure as we can. If we’re putting all the pressure on them and they can still pull the car out of a situation quickly and efficiently, it’s been a good reward,” he said.–TG