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Early Education Funding for 3 and 4 year olds

Every child aged 3 and 4 is eligible to access early education funding.  Any child is eligible to the entitlement from the beginning of the funding period following their third birthday to the beginning of the funding period following their fifth birthday

The Department for Education sets the funding period dates as:

  • September Period - between 1 September and 31 December
  • January Period - between 1 January and 31 March
  • April Period - between 1 April and 31 August

Once a child is of school age and attends a Local Authority school, the school then receives the child's free early education entitlement. Independent schools, however, are eligible to continue supplying free early education until the term following a child's fifth birthday.

All children of eligible age, regardless of whether they or their parents have British citizenship or passport restrictions, are entitled to claim early education.

Where Can My Child Access Early Education Funding?

A full list of all registered providers can be obtained via this Directory.

What is My Child's Entitlement?

You are entitled to 15 hours Early Education funding per week across 38 weeks per year.

If you can't use the full 15 hours per week at one provider, you can share the entitlement with a second provider.

If you use less than 15 hours per week you may be able to use any remainder during school holidays either with your current provider or a different provider. Speak with your provider about this; it's sometimes referred to as 'stretching hours'.

If you only use your Early Education funding it should be completely free. If providers charge for any goods or services, this is not a condition of children accessing a place. Such goods or services might include meals, optional extra activities or additional hours of provision in addition to the funded place. Please check with your provider for full details.

You may have to pay a reservation fee or deposit at the time of signing your Parent/Carer Declaration Form, although you should receive your deposit back in a timely manner.

Providers can choose what time of day they offer Early Education funded hours or sessions. Some will only offer morning sessions for example. Unless there is a capacity issue every provider should be able to offer at least 15 hours per week and this should be discussed with you while you decide if the setting is right for your child.

The maximum session is 10 hrs per day between 6am and 8pm (subject to availability at your chosen provider - the provider does not have to be open during these hours).

If your child does not attend regularly, the Local Authority will consider ending entitlement. Regular attendance is important preparation for school.

How Does Early Education Funding Entitlement Work?

How Does Early Education Funding Entitlement Work?

Once you have chosen your childcare provider, they will explain to you when the  early education funding will begin and confirm the availability of places. You will then be asked to complete a Parent/Carer Declaration Form signing up to the terms and conditions of the entitlement. Your child's entitlement will not begin without this form. Your child's childcare provider will claim the entitlement on your behalf - you do not need to do anything else.

You should be aware that this document is a legally binding contract and you should read it carefully and discuss any issues with the childcare provider.

If you need help with finding suitable childcare, contact our Childcare Brokerage Service on 01202 261970.

Can My Child Attend for More than 15 Hours Per Week?

Yes, but only a maximum entitlement of 15 hours per week will be funded and you will be required to pay any provider costs for the additional hours.

How Do I Change Providers and Still Receive the Free Entitlement?

Once you have completed a parent/carer declaration form, you have signed up to have your child's entitlement with that provider.

The entitlement will not automatically transfer with your child to a new provider if you decide to move your child, or not begin with a provider you have signed a contract with.

Your provider is entitled to request up to 4 calendar weeks notice of leaving, please refer to the contract you signed with the provider for further details.  They will ask your help to complete a transfer form requesting the transfer of your child's early education funding. This form can be obtained from your childcare provider.  If you have a Safety, SEN or Quality reason for leaving and want to let us know directly please get in touch.

It's important that the old provider, you and the new provider all know the remaining hours balance for your child and that any notice due is served.  We will confirm the transfer of hours and your new provider will need to let you know accordingly.

What Additional Charges Might I be Asked to Pay?

You have to pay for any hours your child attends over and above the number of funded hours per week.

Additional services such as meals, snacks, drinks and trips, and extra activities such as music and dance etc are not covered by early education funding, and the childcare provider may charge you for these.

At the beginning of each new term, the childcare provider should tell you about any charges that may be incurred, enabling you to make an informed choice as to whether the childcare provider is right for you and your child.

If your child attends a childcare provider outside of your Local Authority area the funding will be paid by the Local Authority where your child attends. 

What if I am Claiming Childcare Through Working Tax Credits?

Early Education funding does not affect benefits received. However, the funding does mean that your childcare costs will be lower, so if you are claiming the childcare element of Working Tax Credit, you should only claim for the childcare fees you are paying to prevent an overpayment.

HMRC 0345 300 3900