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Free Early Learning and Childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

What is it?

All 3 and 4 year old children are entitled receive 15 hours of funded early education per week, 38 weeks per year.  This can be administered over three terms or stretched out across the year to suit your needs.

If you are eligible you can receive an extra 15 hours per week over 38 weeks. You may have heard this described as the 30 hours offer.


How to check your eligibility for 30 hours funding

To see the criteria and check your eligibility, follow the link on the Childcare Choices website or visit 30 hours free childcare - GOV.UK (

If you experience any problems with your online application, you can call the Childcare Service Helpline on 0300 1234 097.

If you are eligible for 30 hour funding, you will receive a 30 hour code, which you should present to your chosen childcare provider. Please note you will need to reconfirm your details with the HMRC every 3 months, before the expiry date of your code. You will receive reminders to do this from the HMRC and from your childcare provider.

Evidence of the child's date of birth and address will need to be shown along with the 30 hour code before a place can be offered. The Local Authority can ask the provider to evidence they have had sight of these documents when they make a claim for funding as part of the audit arrangements.

Additional funding available to your provider

Further streams of funding are available for some groups of children.

This additional funding is paid to the provider and will help your child to:

• Benefit from extra resources and equipment suited to their needs
• Enjoy a range of new play, learning and activity experiences
• Be prepared for starting school

Disability Access Fund (DAF) - for children in receipt of DLA

Early Years Pupil Premium - for disadvantaged families. To check if you are eligible, go to for more information

Deprivation Supplement - Calculated based on areas of deprivation within the city

EAL supplement - To recognise differences in attainment in the early years foundation stage between children whose first language is English, and those who have English as an additional language (EAL). 




Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: When does my child become eligible?

  • If your child is born between 1 April and 31 August, they will be eligible for a funded place from 1 September following their third birthday, until statutory school age and the term after the 30 code is issued
  • If your child is born between 1 September and 31 December, they will be eligible for a funded place from 1 January following their third birthday, until statutory school age.
  • If your child is born between 1 January and 31 March, they will be eligible for a funded place from 1 April following their third birthday, until statutory school age.


Q: What type of childcare can I use?

A: Your preferred childcare setting must be registered with Ofsted must also be included on the local authority list of Early Years Funding providers to receive funding for the child.

To find out if a childcare setting is on the local authority provider list, please use our Family Information and SEND Directory Childcare Search. These include school nurseries, private day nurseries, childminders, and playgroups.

Q: My child is going to turn three next year. How soon can I access the 30-hours?

A: Your child will be eligible for the 30 hours offer from the term after they turn three, or the term after you receive your eligibility code – whichever is later.

For example, if your child turns three on 25 March, and you apply for the 30-hours on 27 March, your child will be eligible for a place from 1 April (i.e. the start of the spring term). However, if your child turns three on 25 March but you don’t apply for the 30 hours until 5 April, your child won’t be eligible for a place until 1 September (i.e. the start of the autumn term).

Q: If I’m not eligible for the 30-hour offer, can I still get my 15 hours?

A: Yes. The 15-hour offer is still universal so if you’re not eligible for a 30-hour place, you will still be eligible for the 15-hour offer.

Q: What happens if I become ineligible for the offer e.g. because I lose my job?

A: If you no longer meet the eligibility criteria, your child’s 30-hour place will continue to be funded for a ‘grace period’. You should discuss this with your provider if and when you lose eligibility. The table below outlines how long the grace period will last, depending on when you become ineligible for the offer.

Once the grace period has expired, you will still be eligible for the 15-hour funded childcare offer. If you have been taking up the 30 hours at two providers, you can decide which provider you want to continue taking up your 15 hour places from.

Q: I want to access the 30-hours but my provider is asking for a deposit. Can they do this?

A: Yes. Under government rules, providers can charge a refundable deposit for funded places for two-, three- and four-year-olds.

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