Early education and childcare for 3 and 4 year olds


Early education and childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

The government funds up to 15 hours of free childcare. Any hours above this must be paid by the parent or carer.

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 extended entitlement.


Funding can be taken over 38 weeks (term time), 47.5 weeks, 51 weeks or 52 weeks.

Your childcare provider can explain how they would claim the funding - whether it is used over term time or if they 'stretch it' over a longer period of time throughout the year.

This will change how many hours you can claim in the week - but a stretched offer may be more suitable. Please ask your childcare provider for further details.

Universal Entitlement

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


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

Providers may ask for a payment for meals and other consumables, as well as additional trips or activities.

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


You can access 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

Multiple providers

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

When to use it

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 funding block.

Your child is still entitled to childcare regardless of when you choose to start in the funding block, 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.

Last updated 02 April 2024