SIPTU representatives have today (Tuesday, 20th February) urged the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to give early years educators the same opportunities as primary and second level teachers to complete child protection training. SIPTU Organiser, Theresa Butler, said: “The Department of Education and Skills has already given the green light to primary and secondary level educators to take paid time off in order to complete child protection training. Unfortunately, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has not afforded the same opportunity to early years educators. The fact of the matter is, all organisations working with children and young people must provide child protection training for staff. While this is a positive development in the safeguarding of children, early years educators should not be expected to complete this training at their own expense. It’s unacceptable and speaks volumes about the lack of adequate funding in the sector.” She added: “When we started this campaign we knew pay would be a big issue but we soon learnt that although pay is a high priority the winning of recognition is the main objective for early years educators. Child care has long since been neglected by the powers that be and this will continue unless professionals in the sector work together and stand united.”  SIPTU Early Years National Committee member, June Hamill, said: “Matters like this cut to the core of what we are fighting for and why. Yet again, we are being treated as second class citizens. Our colleagues educating children in primary and secondary schools are given paid time off to complete this essential training while we must complete the training on our own time, at our own expense. It’s not right and it’s not fair. She added: “The only way to win respect for our profession is by getting organised and having one united voice. Early years educators, managers and providers can do this by joining SIPTU and getting active in the Big Start campaign. That is our best shot at achieving the professional recognition for the contribution we make.”