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Council Services:

3 and 4 Year Olds

3 and 4 year old children are entitled to free early education from the term following their 3rd birthday until they reach compulsory school age (the beginning of the term following their 5th birthday).

Children are entitled to access school reception class from September following their 4th birthday. Where parents choose to defer entry, and keep their child in a Private, Voluntary or Independent provision they may still access the 15 hour entitlement until their child reaches compulsory school age, the term after their 5th birthday.

Places must be offered flexibly to meet the needs of parents and providers will deliver their own model of flexibility within the parameters set out in the EYE Guidance. Parents must liaise with the provider of choice to decide which model suits their needs.

There is no requirement for all early education places to be delivered only over 38 weeks of the year or in line with maintained school term dates.

Where a provider does not offer the sessions that meet a parents requirements, they should signpost parents to the Family Information Service (FIS) to request information regarding alternative providers. FIS Freephone telephone number: 0800 195 1635.

Where a child is attending school reception class in a state school (full or part time), Early Years Entitlement hours cannot be claimed by an early years provider.

30 Hours Childcare

From September 2017, the government has made a commitment to extend the current entitlement and provide an additional 15 hours of free childcare for children that are eligible. The new entitlement to 30 hours free childcare is intended to support working parents with the cost of childcare and enable them, where they wish, to return to work or to work additional hours.


  • Both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family), and each parent earns, on average, a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage (NMW) or national living wage (NLW), and less than £100,000 per year. (Working will include employed and self-employed persons. Parents do not necessarily need to actually work 16 hours a week, but rather their earnings must reflect at least 16 hours of work at NMW or NLW, which is £107 a week at the current NMW rate. This includes those parents on zero contract hours who meet the criteria)
  • Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity or paternity leave
  • Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on adoption leave
  • Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on statutory sick pay
  • One parent is employed and one parent has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring
  • One parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits

The Childcare Bill describes the government’s commitment to increase the choice for families to take up work or to increase their hours at work.


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30 Hours Free Childcare

The government has committed to doubling the amount of free childcare .

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Last updated: 19 April 2016

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