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Tel: 08457 125 737


Free Early Education for 3 & 4 year olds

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What is Free Early Education?

Children are entitled to 570 hours of FREE early education or childcare a year.  This is often taken as 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year, starting the school term after a child turns 3 years old.

Who provides it?

You can use any of the following as long as they are Ofsted registered and are included on the local authority list to provide the entitlement:

• Day nurseries
• Pre schools
• Nursery schools
• Nursery classes
• Independent schools
• Some childminders

Some childcare providers offer places more flexibly, you may be able to stretch the free sessions over more weeks of the year by using less hours each week.  Speak to the providers to see what they can offer.
The Children and Families Information Service can help you to find a provider, call 08457 125 737 or email


When is my child eligible for a free place?
If your child's third birthday falls between:Your child will become eligible for a free place from:
1 January and 31 MarchThe start of the Summer Term (April)
1 April and 31 AugustThe start of the Autumn Term (September)
1 September and 31 DecemberThe start of the Spring Term (January)

Some two year olds are also entitled to free childcare it will depend on the child’s circumstances or family income. To find out more go to: Free childcare for 2 year olds

How are the free early education hours offered?

Childcare providers are required to offer the free entitlement which complies with the following limits. Providers will decide when they are able to offer free entitlement hours as not all providers will be able to offer all the options.

• The minimum length of a session is 2 ½ hours
• The maximum length of a session is 10 hours in any one day
• The 15 hours can be taken over minimum of 2 days

Will there be any additional charges?

If a child is only accessing the free early education provision each week the family do not have to pay anything, as free early education is free at point of delivery.

However, if a family requires additional childcare over and above the entitlement the childcare provider will charge for the extra hours.  They may also charge for additional services, e.g. lunch, snacks and trips.

Please check with the childcare provider for any additional charges.

What are the benefits of high quality early years education or childcare?

Early education is good for a child’s social, physical and mental development.  It also helps them to prepare for school, giving them the best start in life.

Children will meet and play with other children, this will help them to build their confidence, the areas of learning include:

• Communication and language
• Physical development
• Personal, social and emotional development

Your child will:

• Experience new and exciting activities
• Make new friends
• Build their confidence and social skills
• Improve their speech and language

As a parent free early education can help you:

• Save on childcare costs
• Have time to explore work and/or training opportunities
• Take on more paid work
• Support your child to play and learn
• Have more time to yourself

How to apply for a place

To apply for a nursery attached to a school please ring the School Admissions Team on 01228 221582 or visit

To apply to a voluntary, private or independent provider please ask them directly for an application form.

For further information contact the Children and Families Information Service.