imageIncreasing the hours of free early learning and childcare in Scotland to 1140 hrs per year is a fantastic proposal by the Government.

Research shows that these early years are a time when the brain develops fastest and much of its ‘wiring’ is laid down. Trillions of connections between brain cells are being made during the first three years of a child’s life, therefore the experiences a child has in those early years (both positive and negative) can either support learning or interfere with it.

Indeed, the Scottish Government states “…the transition into primary school is a critical period in children’s lives.” So we (within the profession and the Scottish Government) have all established that the early years are the most important years for learning; so why is the valuable contribution that Early Years Practitioners play to that “critical period in children’s lives” recognised in their pay?

Privately owned businesses are making huge profits from these increases in childcare hours and new nurseries are springing up all over the country as demand for these free childcare hours increases. All the while, Childcare Practitioners are experiencing a huge increase in their workload and still have to scrape by on minimum wage.

“Research shows that these early years are a time when the brain develops fastest and much of its ‘wiring’ is laid down.”

There is (in many workplaces and certainly where I am employed) a high level of absence due to sickness/stress. The privately owned nursery addresses this problem by hiring temps; most of whom don’t have the proper training or skills. However this strategy meets the required National Care Standards ratio…..there are enough ‘bodies’ in the building so come bring your child and your £38 to nursery today!

To add insult to injury, these temps are on a higher rate of pay than fully qualified Practitioners.

This practise of paying minimum wage not only has a downside for Practitioners it also affects the children. It’s difficult (and sometimes impossible) for someone who is living on the breadline to be motivated and/or creative when they’re too busy thinking about how they’re going to feed/house there own child/children.

The Scottish Government hopes to “improve outcomes for children, especially those who are more vulnerable or disadvantaged” yet it is failing the children of the very people who are responsible for improving the outcomes of children. Certainly in my own experience, most months I have to make a choice between feeding my son and paying my bills and very often go without meals myself.

The ‘partnership’ between local authorities and the private sector could/should have stipulated in its terms and agreements that Childcare Practitioners were paid a fair and decent wage for the work they do.

“Certainly in my own experience, most months I have to make a choice between feeding my son and paying my bills and very often go without meals myself.”

If a Practitioner working in a local authority nursery is worth £19,818-£23,688 per year then why are Practitioners working in private nurseries worth £4,842 – £8,712 less?

Teachers are often in the headlines demanding higher pay and they receive a lot of support from the general public. Richard Bell a member of the NASUWT union said in May of this year, “more and more” was being asked of Scottish teachers at a time when they were being paid “less and less”. Childcare Practitioners follow the Curriculum for Excellence too and we are also asked to do more and more.

We too are obliged to maintain and improve our knowledge and skills of childcare and education science. We too spend hours and hours each week outwith working hours planning and resourcing materials (often using our own money) in order to implement the Curriculum requirements.

And we’re on minimum wage.

“If a Practitioner working in a local authority nursery is worth £19,818-£23,688 per year then why are Practitioners working in private nurseries worth £4,842 – £8,712 less?”

Now don’t think this is me having a dig at teachers, it’s not. I fully empathise with and support teachers. My daughter is a primary school teacher and I know exactly the amount of time, effort, passion and (her own) money she puts into her students. But Childcare Practitioners do that too because we recognise what a “critical period in children’s lives” we are responsible for.

I love my job. I couldn’t imagine a more rewarding profession. The sheer wonder of watching a child furrow his/her brows in concentration, knowing their wee minds are busily at work, grasping concepts and making sense of the world around them. I truly love it. It brings me joy.

I’d just like my pay to reflect the valuable part I and my fellow Practitioners play in helping children reach their full potential.

Likes(20)Dislikes(1)