Our pre-school settings in Reigate and Merstham continue to offer high-quality and affordable childcare for children aged 2-5, including free Early Years entitlement places, and have welcomed new families where some private providers have closed their doors. 

“Finding a suitable pre-school place for Ralph was a daunting experience,” says Redhill mother-of-two Sophie. “At 3 years old, he had specific sensory issues and was easily overwhelmed by his environment.” 

When Ralph was diagnosed with moderate autism spectrum disorder in 2020, Sophie was told by a couple of Early Years providers that they didn’t have the staff available or funding in place to give Ralph the care he needed. Then Ralph’s local key worker suggested that Sophie contact the recently opened YMCA Merstham Hub Pre-School and, from that moment, they haven’t looked back. 

“Ralph is making amazing progress,” says Sophie. “One and a half years ago, he was non-verbal but, since starting at the YMCA Pre-School, his language has really picked up. He now likes a cuddle if he’s feeling overwhelmed and I’ve seen a massive improvement in his social skills. Ralph has always loved adult company but the staff have been helping him to work in small groups and he is slowly beginning to interact with the other children. It’s all I ever wanted.” 

Recent studies by YMCA England and Wales have found that there is a 20% shortfall in government funding of Early Years childcare across the country compared to the cost of provision. 

Judith Brooks is Head of Children and Young People at YMCA East Surrey. She says: 

“The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are the most critical in shaping their development. Providing appropriate support and development opportunities during that time gives children the greatest chance of reaching their potential than at any other stage of their life. We particularly work in low-income communities where families face multiple challenges and often need the most support.” 

The recent pandemic significantly impacted the learning and development of children in Early Years and offering suitable support to families is as important as ever. The ‘developmental gaps’ were mostly seen in Personal, Social and Emotional development. 

One parent told us: 

“My daughter is still very clingy to us as she has not had much interaction outside family members since the pandemic. I am very thankful that the staff at the YMCA have been very patient with my daughter, acclimatising her into the environment. I can see growth in her behaviour as she has become less shy towards strangers and I am very happy about that.”  

Sophie, 28, says: 

“Childcare in this area is so expensive, but fortunately for us the YMCA Pre-School is very affordable. The staff have helped me enormously with information and support and they organised the funding which was needed to provide Ralph with the one-to-one care he needs. They are absolutely brilliant.” 

“Ralph comes out of every pre-school session with a big smile. It’s become a vital part of his weekly routine, providing the perfect preparation for when he starts school in September.” 

Find out more about our YMCA Pre-schools