Skip to main contentAccessibility Statement

Free early education and childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

All 3 and 4 year olds can receive up to 570 hours a year of early education and childcare, often called Universal Entitlement. This is spread across three funding blocks, with a maximum of 15 hours a week.

Working parents may be able to claim additional hours to support with childcare costs, known as 30 hours.

Universal Entitlement

When can I take up a place for my child?

Children qualify for the first full funding block of childcare following their third birthday.

The 3 blocks are:

  • 1 September to 31 December
  • 1 January to 31 March
  • 1 April to 31 August

How do I claim the childcare?

To claim your childcare please speak to your chosen childcare provider who can help.

Providers may ask for a voluntary payment for meals and other consumables.

Please make sure you are aware of any additional charges before agreeing to take up the place.

Where can my child take up their childcare?

You can access the funded early education and childcare at most Ofsted registered childcare providers.

These include:

  • private day nurseries
  • pre-school playgroups
  • maintained nurseries
  • childminders, including childminders registered with a Childminding Agency
  • out of school provision
  • independent schools

Can I use more than one childcare provider?

You may choose for your child to take all or part of their childcare at a maximum of 2 childcare providers.

What if I don’t want to use the childcare straight away?

Not all parents choose to start their childcare as soon as they qualify. It may be that you choose to start a few weeks into the term.

Your child is still entitled to childcare regardless of when you choose to start in the term, provided:

  • the childcare provider you have chosen has a vacancy
  • the vacancy that is available does not require the childcare provider to employ another member of staff - additional children would exceed the amount of children they are allowed to have, as set by Ofsted in the Ofsted ratios
  • it does not state in the childcare provider's admissions policy or terms and conditions that they will not admit funded children after the headcount day has passed

30 hours additional childcare

Am I eligible for the additional hours?

You can claim the additional hours if you meet the eligibility criteria on GOV.UK.

When should I apply for the additional hours?

You need to have applied for and received an eligible code from HMRC before the start of the funding block in which your child will be eligible.

You will be given a start date for this code which will match the day you apply.

This date must be before the end of the previous funding block.

We are unable to fund codes that have been issued after the deadline. These codes will be eligible for the next full funding block.

Date of child's third birthdayDate you need to apply byDate child becomes eligible for the 30-hour entitlement (if parents have had eligibility confirmed)
1 January to 31 March31 MarchStart of term beginning on or following 1 April
1 April to 31 August31 AugustStart of term beginning or following 1 September
1 September to 31 December31 DecemberStart of term beginning or following 1 January

Please allow time for HMRC to process your code and for your provider to validate it. The 30-hour code application deadlines have been set by the Department for Education.

We recommend you apply at least 3 weeks before the deadline date, in case of any delays when receiving your code.

Your childcare provider may have set their own deadline for validating 30 hour codes prior to the beginning of each term. This is particularly the case for funded places beginning in September with providers who are closed for the Summer holidays.

Please talk to your childcare provider about when you should provide them with your 30-hour code, in order to ensure your child will receive the funding.

How do I apply for the additional hours?

You can apply on GOV.UK.

Do I need to re-apply?

You must confirm your details are up to date every 3 months or your code will expire and funding for your additional hours will stop.

You can confirm your details are up to date on GOV.UK.

Where can my child take up their childcare?

You can access the funded entitlement at most Ofsted registered childcare providers.

These include:

  • private day nurseries
  • pre-school playgroups
  • maintained nurseries
  • childminders, including childminders registered with a Childminding Agency
  • out of school provision
  • independent schools

Please check that the provider offers the additional hours, and all of the terms and conditions, before taking up the place.

Contact us

If you need any help, please email [email protected].

Why information is on a different website
We are in the process of adding information to this new unitary council website. Some pages will give you a link back to a previous council website to help you find what you need. Read more about the council changes.

Last updated 29 September 2021