The Big Start campaign has delivered a Pre-Budget Submission on Childcare to the Government, today (Tuesday, 25th July), which calls for greater investment in the sector and recognition for Early Years educators.  SIPTU Sector Organiser and Big Start campaign co-ordinator, Darragh O’Connor, said: “The Big Start campaign is a coalition of organisations all focused on improving Early Years childcare in Ireland. Among the organisations involved in the coalition are SIPTU, Barnardos, the National Childhood Network, the Union of Students of Ireland and ICTU. “Among the recommendations contained in our detailed Pre-Budget Submission is that public investment in the Early Years sector is raised to at least 1% of GDP, as recommended by UNICEF. The submission also calls for the development of a pay scale that recognises the qualifications, responsibilities and expertise of Early Years educators, as well as the introduction of a further six weeks of paid parental leave.” National Childhood Network CEO, Denise Mc Cormilla, said: “The National Childhood Network sees childcare staff as central to the delivery of quality services. Without the right working conditions the sector cannot employ skilled, qualified and competent staff to promote children's overall development” USI President, Michael Kerrigan, said: “The Union of Students in Ireland is calling on Government to develop a pay scale that recognises the qualifications, dedication and expertise of Early Years graduates. We see Early Years students frustrated in their courses with the prospect of graduating into a career where they are not respected or paid enough. “We're concerned that the number of students entering into these courses will plummet if something isn't done immediately. A shortage of future staff can be prevented today, if we recognise the value these graduates have.” Barnardos Head of Advocacy, June Tinsley, said: “The investment in childcare secured in Budget 2017 must be built on in Budget 2018 to ensure all services are affordable and of high quality. The benefits to all children, especially those from disadvantaged areas, are well proven but can only be secured through ensuring staff are appropriately trained, paid and valued.”