Free early education

15 hours for 3 and 4 year olds

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. For example, if your child turns three in February, their entitlement would start from the beginning of the summer term in April.

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 

30 hours for 3 and 4 year olds

30 hours free early education for three and four-year-olds

For working families this entitlement increases to 30 hours per week for the equivalent of 38 weeks per year (i.e. 1140 hours total per year)

What does a ‘free’ entitlement mean?

The entitlement to 15 or 30 of childcare hours to childcare means that the free entitlement hours should be free to parents. Providers can charge a refundable deposit (details below) and can charge for consumables (e.g. nappies) and optional extras (e.g. lunch). The optional extras cannot be a condition of taking up the entitlement. For example if a childcare provider charges to supply lunch, parents should be given the option of bringing a packed lunch for their child. Brent Council has a duty to support parents where they are unable to access their free entitlement to childcare free of charge. Parents are asked to contact Brent Council ( or 02089373010) if:

  • additional charges for the free 15 or 30 hours places (e.g. for lunch or classes) are not optional
  • a childcare provider is charging extra where a child has a special educational need or disability

Eligibility details

The entitlement to free early education and childcare will extend to 30 hours in families where:

  • Both parents are working (or the sole parent in a lone parent family) and each parent/carer earns on average:
    • a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage (NMW) (for under 25 year olds) or national living wage (NLW) (if over 25 years old), and
    • less than £100,000 per year

You and your partner must also both:

  • live in England
  • expect to have income of less than £100,000 each a year

If you and your partner are unemployed, you and your partner must become employed within 14 days of applying. You may get different eligibility outcomes for each of your children if you apply for 30 hours free childcare for more than one child.

Important - if your child is in reception, you can't use your code to get free childcare. Once your child is of compulsory school age, they're no longer eligible.

Circumstances where you may still be eligible:

You can use 30 hours free childcare if you're already getting Universal Credit or tax credits, and you can still apply for 30 hours free childcare if you or your partner:

  • are taking paid time off work, such as maternity leave, paternity leave or sick leave
  • are temporarily away from England for a period of up to 6 months, such as if you're in the military (on duty)
  • If you, or your partner, are on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or you're unable to work because you are disabled or have caring responsibilities, you could still be eligible. 

Additional Information:

  • You do not need to actually work 16 hours per week, but your earnings must equal at least 16 hours work at minimum wage / national living wage. This equates to a minimum income requirement for a parent/carer over the age of 25 of (currently £7.50 per hour, £120 per week as at April 2017), or for 21-24 year olds £7.05 an hour – therefore, the minimum income requirement for this group is £112.8 a week)
  •  ‘Parent’ means a person who has parental responsibility for the child. In cases where a parent has remarried or is living with a partner, the step-parent or partner must also meet the earning threshold.
  • Foster carers are only eligible for the extended entitlement for their own children (if they meet the criteria); they are not eligible for children that they foster.
  • 30 hours can be taken across any provider delivering 30 hour places (this is likely to include schools, childminders, private voluntary and independent settings and out of school providers).

What happens if (myself or my partner lose their job)?:

There will be a "grace period" – of one term - allowing parents to have a chance to find new employment. 

You're not eligible if:

  • you're in receipt of a childcare grant
  • you're a full-time student/an intern
  • you're not entitled to receive public funds

How can I apply?


To get 30 hours free childcare, you'll need to do the following:

  • apply online through the childcare service.
  • if you're eligible, you'll receive a code – this will allow you to arrange your childcare place ahead of the term in which your child becomes eligible
  • take your code to your childcare provider, along with your National Insurance number and your child’s date of birth
  • your childcare provider will check the code is authentic and allocate your child a free childcare place. You will then need to confirm that you continue to be eligible every 3 months by logging back on to the website.

Families can take up their place from the term after their child turns three and the term after they get their eligibility code, whichever is later.


Where can I take up my place? 


30 hour places will be offered in schools, private, voluntary and independent settings and childminders in Brent. It is decision of the childcare provider / setting as to whether they will deliver the 30 hour entitlement.

Providers can choose to offer some or all of the hours. Parents are free to ‘shop around’ to find appropriate funded provision.

Families can choose to take up their entitlement across up to two providers on any day.  For example a child could take up a morning place in a private daycare setting and an afternoon place with a childminder or an afternoon session at a school site and a twilight session with a childminder.

How much will it cost?


The entitlement of 30 hours childcare is free for eligible families. Some settings may charge a refundable deposit when your child starts at the setting.

If you want your child to access childcare for more than the equivalent of 30 hours per week, 38 weeks per year additional fees will apply. 

Will the 15 hour entitlements continue?


All three and four year olds, and eligible two-year olds, continue to be entitled to 15 hours early education a week.

Which providers offer 30 hours free early education?


You can find out which providers plan to offer 30 hours free early education from September 2017 here. (updated 10 May 2017)

Where can I go for further information?


View the key questions about the 30 hour entitlement

You can find out more about what you’re entitled to here

You can also sign up to receive free emails about the scheme.

You can also find out what childcare options may suit you best by using the Childcare Calculator

If you have any queries about the 30 hour entitlement in Brent, please email

Information for Brent childcare providers on delivery of 30 hour free entitlement places


30 hours - A family's experience

Find out how 30 hours is helping Brent families with this personal story from Emma Franklin, Brent resident and mother.

15 hours for 2 year olds

Free early education entitlement for two-year-olds

Some children aged two-years-old are eligible for 15 hours of free childcare provision per week.

To qualify you must be getting one of the following:

  • income support or income based Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • support under part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Child Tax Credit and have an annual income not over £16,190
  • Working Tax Credits and earn no more than £16,190 a year
  • the Working Tax Credit four-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

Children are also entitled to a place if:

  • the child has a current education, health and care plan
  • the child receives Disability Living Allowance
  • the child is looked after or in care
  • they've left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or residence order.

More information