Free childcare for all 3 and 4-year olds
Free nursery education is available to all 3 and 4-year olds. If your child's third birthday falls between:
- 1 April and 31 August they qualify for funding from 1 September
- 1 September and 31 December, they qualify for funding from 1 January
- 1 January and 31 March, they qualify for funding from 1 April
The maximum Nursery Education Funding you can claim per week for each child is 15 hours. If you wish to claim the maximum 15 hours, you can do this over no more than 38 weeks of the year, which equals 570 hours in total. Free Nursery Education Funding can be used at registered childcare providers such as:
- day nurseries
- pre-schools / playgroups
- nursery schools / classes
- accredited network childminders
You can split your free nursery education hours between 2 providers if you wish.
You can claim a maximum of 10 hours on one day. The minimum is 3 hours. If you use your free nursery education hours over 2 days or more, you can claim the maximum of 15 hours per week.
With the agreement of your childcare provider, you can stretch your 570 hours over more than 38 weeks per year, in accordance to the funding periods we set. You will not receive more than the maximum hours per funding period. Please discuss your individual requirements with your childcare provider.
How to apply
Once you have chosen your provider and feel confident your child will be happy there, register with them by completing a Parent Declaration Form, which they will provide.
You will need to provide proof of eligibility for the free entitlement (date of birth and proof of address) and decide on the hours your child will be attending for the entire funding period or academic term.
You should not be charged anything for the free nursery education hours, but any hours your child attends over the free entitlement are chargeable to you at your childcare providers usual rate. You should be clear on what fees will be when registering.
Your provider may charge you for breakfast, lunch or snacks. You should be given the option to opt out if you wish.
You do not have to buy additional hours or ‘top up’ costs to receive the free nursery education hours.
Remember to inform Tax Credits of any reduction in your nursery fees.
The free entitlement does not affect any means tested benefits.