Entitlement to early education funding

All children are eligible to receive funded early education from the term following their third birthday, until they start school. The date this starts depends on your child’s birthday.

 Child's third birthday  When you can claim three and four year old funding
 1 January - 31 March  The beginning of term on or after 01 April
 1 April - 31 August  The beginning of term on or after 01 September
 1 September - 31 December​ The beginning of term on or after 01 January

To arrange funding, you need to contact a provider directly.

Places are available at Ofsted registered:

  • daycare nurseries
  • pre-schools
  • maintained nurseries (in schools)
  • childminders - this includes those working through an Ofsted registered agency (ask your childminder if they offer funded sessions)

Your child will be entitled to up to 570 hours of early education funding per year. This is often taken as 15 hours per week over 38 weeks of the year during term time. Individual providers offer different levels of flexibility. They will be able to advise you about the services they offer. Some daycare providers, for example, can ‘stretch’ the funded hours over school holidays.

In all cases, the minimum number of hours allowed in an early education session is 2.5. The maximum number of hours is 10. The earliest start time is 6.00am and the latest finish is 8.00pm and some may offer funded hours at the weekends.

You can use your hours with two providers. However, you must inform both providers that you are doing this. You must not claim more than the maximum number of hours per year in total.

Providers can charge a refundable deposit to be refunded within a reasonable time frame. If a parent fails to take up their place, the provider is not obliged to refund the deposit.

Providers are permitted to make some optional charges.

Government funding is intended to deliver 15 or 30 hours a week of free, high quality, flexible childcare. It is not intended to cover the costs of meals, other consumables, additional hours or additional activities. Parents can therefore expect to pay for any meals offered by the provider alongside their free entitlement.

Parents can also expect to pay for other consumables or additional activities offered by the provider, such as nappies or trips. Where parents choose to purchase additional hours of provision, consumables or additional activities, this is a private matter between the provider and the parent. However, providers must offer alternative options for parents. This could include, for example, allowing a parent to bring in their own consumables or a packed lunch, where the meal offered is not suitable for children with specific dietary needs or the parent prefers a lower cost option. 

Your chosen provider will ask you to produce your child’s birth certificate or passport when signing a parental contract. 

We will advise the Department for Education of the name, address and date of birth of the children who receive this funding. Parents should receive a privacy notice from their early education provider to inform them of this.

Find out if you qualify for childcare support through tax-free childcare.

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