All three and four year old children are entitled to free early education and childcare for 15 hours per week for 38 weeks a year. Additional hours can be accessed at a fee and will depend on the individual setting.
To give parents and carers choice and flexibility, the 15 hours can be taken over a minimum of two days, 7am – 7pm, with no session being shorter than 2.5 hours or longer than 10 hours.
Parents may also choose to take fewer hours per week over the full year rather than over 38 weeks, however this will depend on the individual settings' opening hours and session availability.
Extended 30 hour entitlement
Some children are also entitled to an additional 15 hours a week of childcare providing their parents meet the qualifying criteria.
The extended 30 hour entitlement must be taken over three days or more, there are no minimum session requirements and a childcare provider is unable to attach conditions associated with access to the additional 15 hours.
When can I claim?
Both the universal and extended 30 hour entitlement start from the school term following a child’s third birthday.
|Month child was born||School term when free childcare can start|
|Between 1st January and 31st March
||From 1st April (Summer term)
|Between 1st April and 31st August
||From 1st September (Autumn term)
|Between 1st September and 31st December
||From 1st January (Spring term)
How do I find a place?
Early education and childcare takes place in maintained nurseries based at some primary schools, private preschools/nurseries and some childminders who are registered to receive nursery education grant funding.
Our Family Directory has a list of all childcare services that offer this free entitlement.
You can search this list by area to find your nearest childcare providers. Alternatively, you can contact the Family Information Service who will be able to provide a list of places best suited to you.
Once you know which childcare provider you are interested in you should contact them directly to visit and enrol your child.
Can I get further help with my childcare costs?
The government has developed a number of new ways to help parents with their childcare costs for children of all ages.