NURSERY workers are viewed as an “underclass” and should be paid more, according to Scotland’s social care chief.
Anna Fowlie, head of the Scottish Social Services Council, said the public saw childcare professionals as people who “wiped noses and cleaned paint pots”.
Speaking at an event last week in Edinburgh, Ms Fowlie said: “Respecting people whose skill is in play is something we have got to work on as a society.
“In any caring role, people are not paid properly, in my view. They are either paid the minimum wage or not far off it.
“Until we value the people being care for, we won’t value the people working with them. Do we value little kids? I’m not so sure.
“There is a very narrow understanding of how play impacts on the way that children learn. It is not just something nice that you do, it is very important for development.”
Julie Jones, an early years practitioner from Inverness, said despite her gaining a degree in the subject, many people still considered teachers to be superior.
She said: “Everybody asked if I was doing it because I wanted to do teacher training.
“But I want to work with early years children and give them better lives.
She said whilst some realised it was not “just a little babysitting job”, teachers were still considered to be at a “higher level.”
She added: “Pay is important but at the moment I just want people to put me on a par with a teacher, to listen to my voice as much as they would a teacher’s, because at the moment they don’t.”
In June, Professor Iram Siraj, who chaired the Independent Review of the Scottish Early Learning and Childcare Workforce, called for all nursery workers to be paid the living wage of £7.85 per hour or above.
The average salary for a full-time nursery worker in the UK is currently £6.55 per hour or £13638 annually.
The starting salary for a newly qualified teacher is £21,867, and can rise to £34,887.
Fiona McLeod, acting minister for children and young people, said: “The introduction of childhood practice as a degree level qualification ensures that those working in early learning and childcare are highly skilled and part of a valued workforce.”