Free early education

Free early education and childcare for three and four-year-olds

Also known as 'free early years' education' or the '15 free hours' scheme', this grant entitles all three and four-year-olds to 15 hours of free early education each week for 38 weeks of the year (equivalent to school term time).

The entitlement starts from the beginning of the school term immediately following the child's third birthday and continues until the end of the school term before they are eligible to start primary school.

  • Children born in the period 1st January to 31st March can take up a place at the start of term beginning on or following 1st April after the child’s third birthday;
  • Children born in the period 1st April to 31st August can take up a place at the start of term beginning on or following 1st September after the child’s third birthday;
  • Children born in the period 1st September to 31st December can take up a place at the start of term beginning on or following 1st January after the child’s third birthday.

You can use this funding at most private day nurseries, pre-schools, children's centres or with some childminders - please check to make sure they accept the funding before you enrol.

Using your 15 hours

Different education providers may offer different patterns of sessions. For example – some offer morning or afternoon sessions, or full day sessions across fewer number of days per week. You should speak to the provider in advance to find out what availability they have.

Children do not have to have pre-school education and as a parent you can decide whether you think your child will benefit or not.

Funding is provided to cover the cost of a part-time place and parents have the option to additionally fund extra hours themselves.

Working families can claim an additional 15 hours (30 hours total) of childcare