REBECCA CLEVETT runs her own nursery, managing pupils and staff. But colleagues still assume she does nothing but play all day.
The 33-year-old nursery head from Bristol was among the first cohort of nursery workers to pass the new early-years professional qualification, introduced this year. The three-month course, open only to graduates, offers an early-years equivalent of qualified teacher status.
"The qualification gives us more credibility and respect," Ms Clevett said.
"My key stage 2 colleagues used to say, 'It's easy working in early years. All you do is play all day.' But there's so much more to this than playing. People who work in nurseries are not merely nannies. Now they have qualifications in their own right."
Ms Clevett, who moved from primary to nursery teaching two years ago, is among several early-years professionals appearing on a new DVD promoting the qualification. The DVD will be distributed to early-years centres next term.
Rebecca Johnson, who manages a nursery in Halifax, also completed the qualification earlier this year.
"It's frustrating to have to do a course in something you're already doing every day," the 36-year-old said. "But working in a nursery is not a high status profession. So it feels great to say, 'I'm an early-years professional'. You are someone with in-depth knowledge of early-years children."
Even qualified teachers can benefit from the early-years course, Ms Clevett believes. "Being with like-minded professionals in the same field is rewarding and beneficial," she said. "And you can put letters after your name, so people recognise you as somebody with more in-depth knowledge. I wouldn't feel the need to hire teachers if I had early-years professionals."
The new DVD has been produced by the Children's Workforce Development Council, which encourages childcare workers to acquire relevant qualifications.
Jane Haywood, its chief executive, said: "The professional qualification is the gold standard for those working in early years, and we hope this DVD helps promote understanding of its benefits."