Free early education places

Introduction for parents and carers

Every three and four year old is entitled to a free early education place and now, some two year olds are also eligible

We know that the rules around free places can be confusing for parents and childcare providers and that parents understandably have lots of questions about how the entitlement works.It is really important that you know what you can expect from your childcare provider - whether that’s a nursery, pre-school or childminder.

This page will provide you with more information about how and when you can access your free place and your rights when accessing your free place.

Free places for two year old

Families with a two year old who are receiving some forms of support may be eligible for up to 15 hours funded childcare per week.

More information and apply for free places for two year olds.

Free places for three and four year olds

Every child is entitled to receive a free place from the term after their third birthday and children continue to receive their free place until they start the reception year at school. You don’t need to apply for the free place, your provider will automatically enrol your child into the scheme, but you will need to complete a Parental Declaration form to confirm when and where your child is taking up the free place.

Starting free places 

Children become eligible for two year old free places (if they meet the criteria) or the three and four year old funding as follows:

Birthday falls between Term free place starts
 1 April and 31 August  September
 1 September and 31 December  January
 1 January and 31 March  April

Further information

Find out more about how the funding scheme works

Making a complaint about free early education places