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Three and four year olds early education entitlement

Who's eligible

All three and four year olds are eligible for free early education or childcare. 

What is my child entitled to?

When your child is eligible, they can have a total of 570 hours per year. Some providers offer a stretched entitlement across the whole year. Others offer 15 hours per week for 38 weeks per year and this will be for 2½ - 10 hours per day.

Find out if your child qualifies for the new 30 hour extended entitlement

When will my child qualify?

A child becomes eligible for a free place from 1 September, 1 January or 1 April following their third birthday until they reach statutory school age, or start full time education in school reception classes.

Children who are three between:

  • 1 April and 31 August will have a free place from the following September
  • 1 September and 31 December will have a free place from the following January
  • 1 January and 31 March will have a free place from the following April

How do I apply for a free place?

Parents should contact their preferred provider directly. This includes applying for a school nursery place.

You can access a free early years place at any early years provider registered to deliver funded places. 

Your Early Years provider will claim funding from us on your behalf, you will be required to sign a parent/ carer declaration requesting the funded hours and provide proof of your child’s age.

You can choose to access your free hours between no more than two Early Years’ providers on our directory. You would need to agree attendance patterns with both Early Years’ providers and ensure you only claim a maximum of 570 hours through the year.

You are not obliged to pay for additional services in order to access your child’s free hours.

Early years providers will not charge you anything extra for the free place. However, providers can charge you for extra services you choose to take. This could for example be the cost of a hot meal where your child stays over lunchtime, access to forest schools or gym activities or additional hours on top of the ‘free’ place. Early Years providers will charge parents at their own rate for hours and services accessed outside of the free sessions.

Keeping your free place

To keep your 30 hours free childcare, you need to sign in to your childcare account to view a code to give to your provider. This has to be done every 3 months through the childcare pages on the Gov.uk website.

Sign in to your childcare account

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