Free early education and childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

Universal entitlement

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 childcare provider.

To give parents and carers choice and flexibility, providers should offer the entitlement within the following parameters:

  • No session to be longer than ten hours
  • No minimum session length
  • No session before 6am or after 8pm
  • A maximum of two childcare providers in a single day.

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.

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 bornSchool 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 school nurseries, private preschools/nurseries and some childminders. Parents eligible for 30 hours can also access part of their entitlement in before and after school clubs.

Our  Our Town 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.

© Wigan Council