Free early education for three and four year olds

All three and four year old children are entitled to free early years education.


Universal entitlement - 15 hours free per week

All 3 and 4-year olds are entitled to 15 hours a week free early education.  Children can receive 15 hours of free early education per week, 38 weeks per year (570 hours across the year).  Free places are offered as 15 hours spread over a week in term time.  Or the hours can be stretched out to meet your needs.

Children can take up a  place from the term after their third birthday at an approved provider of your choice.  Contact providers directly to register your child. 

You can register a term ahead to reserve a place.

When your child can start

Usually, children start early education in the term after their third birthday. So:

  • If your child's birthday is between 1 April and 31 August, they could start from the autumn term from September.
  • If your child's birthday is between 1 September and 31 December, they could start from the spring term from January.
  • If your child's birthday is between 1 January and 31 March, they could start in the summer term from April.

Where your child can get free early education

Free early education and childcare places can be taken at all types of nurseries and nursery classes, playgroups and pre-schools and also with childminders.

All childcare providers must be registered with Ofsted.  You can choose a provider from our online directory.

All our approved childcare providers are inclusive settings.  If your child has additional needs you can be confident that they will receive the necessary care and support, whether you decide to take up a place with a childminder, with a private or independent nursery, with a maintained nursery school or with a school nursery. 

When to register your child for a place

Places are not given on a "first come. first served" basis, so registering early does not mean you will definitely get a place.  However, you should register your child by the term before they are due to start.

Please note, some school nursery units do not have mid year intakes; this means they may only have one intake of children every September.  If you would prefer a school nursery place for your child, please contact the school directly to check before you register.

If you recently moved into the borough, register your child as soon as possible.

How to register your child for a place

To register with a nursery school  you need to make an appointment to see the head teacher as soon as you can.  You will have to take documents with you to the appointment.  Check with the school to find out what you will need.

To register for an early education place with an Ofsted childcare provider, academy, free school or childminder, you will also need to make an appointment. Contact the organisation directly to find out what documents you need to take to the appointment with you.

30 hours extended entitlement for working parents

The government has extended the free universal 15 hours childcare funding for three and four year olds to an additional 15 hours hours for eligible working families.  This funding does not apply to children attending reception classes in schools.

Funding can be available the term after your child has turned three years of age but you must apply the term before you want your child to take up a place.

You may be eligible for this funding if you meet this criteria:

  • Both parents are working (or the sole parent is a lone parent family) and each parent earns on average, a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage (NMW).
  • A weekly minimum income of equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage but less than £100,000 per year per parent/carer.

You must apply for 30 hours. Click here to learn more about the criteria and apply.  You must apply a term ahead to reserve a 30 hours place from next term. If you submit a successful application, you will be issued with a 30 hours code to give to your approved childcare provider. 30 hours funding will only be available from the term after the start date of your 30 hours code and is for 38 weeks of the year (usually term time only). However, many providers offer 'stretched' options which allow parents to take fewer hours per week over more weeks of the year.  Contact your chosen childcare provider to discuss what they can offer. 

If you are accessing additional charges for your care you may also be eligible for tax free childcare or other government support shown on the website.

When is my child entitled to a free place?

  • If your child's third birthday is between 1 January - 31 March, apply in this period to access a 30 hours place from the start of the summer term (after Easter)
  • If your child's third birthday is between 1 April - 31 August, apply in this period to access a 30 hours place from the start of the autumn term (from September)
  • If your child's third birthday is between 1 September and 31 December, apply in this period to access a 30 hours place from the start of the spring term (from January).

Please use our online directory to choose an approved provider who offers 30 hours places.

If you are interested in taking up the offer with a provider not shown in the directory, email us at or call 020 3373 0980.

Childcare support is expanding, with significant changes coming to 30 hours free childcare in England.  Click here for more details

Watch our short film about 30 hours free childcare

Click here to play the video.

Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) - Extra funding for your childcare provider

The Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) is additional funding given to early years providers to improve the education they provide to some 3 and 4-year-olds. Childcare providers can claim this additional funding to spend on enriching your 3 or 4 year old child's education.Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) funding could help your child's early education provider to offer learning experiences and activities which will prepare your child for starting school. Your child could benefit from extra resources and equipment to meet their needs.

Who qualifies

Your childcare provider (nursery, childminder or school) may be entitled to claim funding for your child if you receive one of the following benefits:

  • income support
  • income-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Child Tax Credit (providing you are not also entitled to working tax credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run on, paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • the guaranteed part of State Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit and have net annual earnings not exceeding £7,400
  • Support under part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

To check your eligibility against the criteria, use our EYPP online checker.

Children qualify in their own right if:

  • they are looked after by a local council for at least one day
  • they have been adopted from care
  • they have left care through special guardianship
  • they are subject to a child arrangement order

If you think the child qualifies under any of the 'in their own right' criteria, email or call 020 3373 0980.

Last updated: 20/10/2023

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