Free places for 3 and 4 year olds

All children are eligible for free early education starting from the term after their 3rd birthday. Terms start on 1 September, 1 January or 1 April. There is a range of early education providers including school nurseries and private providers.

Free early education gives children the best start in life. Through learning and playing with other children in a safe and structured environment, they will have a head start when they begin school. 

How many free hours do I get?

You can get a maximum of 15 free hours per week for 38 weeks of the year.  This is 570 hours in total over the year.

It is up to individual early education providers to decide how they are going to offer the free hours. This means that the number of hours in a session and the days available may be different at each provider.

If your provider is only open during term time, you will be allocated your free hours for the actual number of weeks which the provider is open during each term.

Some providers who are open all year round may let you use less hours per week over the full year. You may find this is an easier way to work out any payments you need to make to your provider for additional hours or services.

Talk to your provider about the options they offer.  

Can I use more than one provider?

You can get your free hours at two different providers but cannot claim more than 15 hours per week in total.

Am I entitled to 30 hours free childcare?

Working parents may be entitled to 30 hours free childcare from September 2017. 

How to apply

If you want your place in a school nursery, see free places in school nurseries for information on what to do next.

If you want your place at a private day nursery, pre-school playgroup, independent school or childminder, see free places at private providers