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15 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

Information on free early education for all 3 and 4 year old children, eligibility, and how to apply.

How much funding can my child get?

All 3 and 4 year old children can get some free early education before starting school. All parents can get up to 570 hours of free early education per financial year. Parents can use their 15 hours to pay for more than one provider.

Working parents may be able to get up to 30 hours free childcare.

Can I spread my hours over term times?

Some childcare providers can stretch your entitlement across more weeks by taking fewer hours over each week. Speak to your chosen provider to find out how many weeks per year you can spread the funding over.

When can my child get the funding?

The funding will start either the 1 January, April, or September (whichever comes first) following your child's third birthday. It will run up to and will include the term in which they turn 5 or start at a state maintained school.

See the table to find out when you can apply for funding for your child.

Child's birthdayWhen you can claim
Between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2015Summer term 2018
Between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2015Autumn term 2018
Between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2015Spring term 2019

Use the  free early education start date calculator for your three or four year olds (excel, 30kb) (opens in a new window) to see when your funding could start and when you can apply. 

What happens when my child starts school?

If a child starts school in the September after their fourth birthday the funding will get transferred to the school. You won't need to apply again. Parents can choose to delay their child's start date until the term of their fifth birthday, in these circumstances the funding can continue at their setting. Parents must still apply for their child's school place by the same admissions deadline as 4 year olds.

See school admissions for more details.

How to apply

Your setting will apply on your behalf and the funding will get paid to them. They will ask you to sign a parental agreement declaring how many hours you want to claim. This will have the funding terms and conditions listed. You will need to apply for any additional hours (30 hours free childcare) online. 

Search for childcare

If you're not using childcare yet, search our Family Information Directory to find childcare. You can filter your search by those offering free early education funding.

Search for childcare

More information


To find out about fee charging policies*, extra costs, paying for fees, deposits and retainers, speak to your childcare provider. *You need to agree to this when you register. 

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