The comments come from Michael White, professional officer for the Professional Association of Teachers in Scotland, the anti-strike union which represents nursery nurses through its Professional Association of Nursery Nurses.
Mr White's call for Scotland's 7,000 nursery nurses to be given higher status coincides with news that the public service union Unison is to ballot nursery nurse members for strike action.
Writing in this week's TES Scotland (Viewpoint, page 22), Mr White says:
"Nursery nurses are the forgotten factor in the success of Scotland's recent improvements in services for under-fives.
"They engage in rigorous professional training. Their programmes of study, modules and assignments would stretch many teachers. Yet they emerge into a career that lacks structure, incentive and progression."
Unison's decision to stage a strike ballot follows a demand for industrial action from nursery nurse members at the weekend. The union has been pursuing a regrading claim for two years and Carol Ball, who chairs its nursery nurse working party, said six months of negotiations with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities had got nowhere. "Nursery nurses are rapidly coming to the end of their tether," she said.
Cosla expressed "extreme disappointment" at the prospect of a strike ballot. James Mutter, chair of the working group, said: "We gave Unison proposals to take away and consider when we last met with them on January 8, to which they have not yet responded."
The authorities claimed last year that the union's regrading claim would cost pound;5 million. A new structure would allow nurses to move from basic grade, and annual earnings averaging pound;12,000, to become heads of establishment.