Free childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds

From the term after their third birthday, until they start school, your child is entitled to up to 570 hours of free early learning and childcare each year.

This is often taken as 15 hours per week for 38 weeks a year during school term time, although some childcare providers may allow you to use fewer hours per week, for more weeks of the year (known as a ‘stretched offer’). The hours can take place in nurseries (including school nursery classes), pre-schools, playgroups or at certain childminders.

Funded time can be taken between 6am and 8pm at no more than 2 sites in one day. There is no minimum amount of time that must be attended.

What should I do?

Check the table below to see when your child is eligible:

Child born betweenEntitled from:
1 April and 31 AugustStart of autumn term after their third birthday until they go to school
1 September and 31 DecemberStart of spring term after their third birthday until they go to school
1 January and 31 MarchStart of summer term after their third birthday until they go to school

If you are already using childcare make sure you speak to your provider to ensure that you are using all the hours you need and are entitled to.

If you’re not already using childcare:

You must then contact your chosen provider direct. They will tell you how to apply for a place.

Please note that any provider receiving an inadequate outcome from Ofsted will not be able to receive funding for any new 3 or 4-year-old children.

30 hours free childcare

From September 2017, some children of working parents may be eligible for extra free early education and childcare. Find out more about the extended entitlement.

Tax-Free Childcare

The government is introducing a Tax-Free Childcare scheme which can be used alongside the 15 and 30 hours of free childcare. You can apply for both the 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare schemes through one online application.