Glowing parliamentary report for Salvation Army pre-school

published on 9 May 2024

Leaders of a Salvation Army-run pre-school in Leigh-on-Sea attended a special reception honouring community childcare champions at 10 Downing Street last week.

Captain Robert and Captain Clare Davis lead the church and the charity in the town which is also the home of the Smiley Centre for Children, known locally as Smiley’s. It’s the oldest Salvation Army-run pre-school in the country, having first opened its doors in 1973. A parent toddler group was also launched at the church last autumn.

Robert and Clare were invited to the reception by Anna Firth, MP for Southend West, who represents Leigh-on-Sea in Parliament. As well as networking with other education providers, Robert and Clare also spoke to David Johnston MP, Minister for for Children, Families and Wellbeing, who hosted the event.

Mrs Firth said she was pleased Robert and Clare were able to attend.

She said: “The theme was giving every child the best start in life and I am always so impressed with the sterling work done by The Salvation Army for our youngest people in Southend and Leigh-on-Sea.”

Smiley Downing Street 1
Mrs Firth invited Robert and Clare to attend the reception

Robert said he and Clare were humbled to be invited to attend and paid tribute to all the staff who work at Smiley’s

“We were honoured to represent The Salvation Army at the highest seat of government. It was incredibly positive to share what is happening at Smiley’s with other people from around the country and hear about their wonderful achievements,”

“Smiley’s is a real team effort. We are seeing numbers increase at the pre-school because of our wonderful staff. Their dedication to the children and families we encounter is simply amazing and I’d like to thank everyone who has supported us over the last 50 years.”

Robert and Clare also spent time chatting with David Johnston. 

Robert said: “He thanked us for our work in the local community. We talked about the importance of the whole family which we believe is crucial to what we are trying to do and our plans for the future.

Smiley Downing Street 2
Robert and Clare said they were honoured to be invited to represent The Salvation Army at the highest seat of government.

“We’ve worked hard to try to raise Smiley’s profle but we are more than a preschool – we are a community and try to look after the whole family. When they leave us and go to school, we look to keep in contact in the future and carry on supporting the family in other ways.”

Andrea Stevens, Early Years Operations Manager for The Salvation Army, said she was pleased to see the team at Leigh get some well-deserved recognition, adding:

 “The team at Leigh on Sea are a small part of a bigger team at The Salvation Army who work to ensure that all children are given access to high quality early education. 

 “Parents trust the Salvation Army brand and we feel privileged to be able to support children and families in the first stages of their education. We are able to sign post families to over services and as soon as they come to a setting they become part of our church community.”

Smiley’s is one of eight Ofsted registered childcare services run by The Salvation Army. The pre-school provides funded early education for two, three and four-year olds. For more information, call 01702 478092

A Salvation Army volunteer/staff member talking with Max on a grey sofa inside a Salvation Army building.

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