Free Early Education and childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

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 10 hours
  • no minimum session length
  • not before 6.00am or after 8.00pm
  • 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. 

Parents of children accessing the 30 hours entitlement, tell how they benefit from it.


More information on how to apply for the 30 hours entitlement

Eligibility (who is this service for?)

This entitlement starts from the school term following a child’s third birthday.

Month child was born                                     School term 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)

Where can I access 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. 

How do I find a place?

The Family Information Service Directory has a list of all the childcare services that offer the free entitlement.  Parents/carers can search this list by area to find their nearest childcare providers.  Alternatively parents can contact the Family Information Service contact centre on 01942 489004 who will be able to provide a list of settings best suited to you.

Once you know which childcare settings you are interested in you are advised to contact them directly to visit and enrol your child.

Select link for Free Childcare for Two Year Olds.

Two year old Childcare

Contact Details

Name Family Information Service Telephone 01942 489004




Page last reviewed: 24/02/2023

Skip back to top of page