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Free childcare and early education for 3 & 4 year olds

If you have a 3 or 4 year old who is not yet going to school they can get free childcare and education at an Ofsted registered private day nursery, pre-school playgroup or childminder. 

All 3 & 4 year olds, regardless of the parents’ immigration status, are entitled to up to 15 hours free education each week for 38 weeks from the term after their third birthday.

Some childcare providers (e.g. day nurseries) may ‘stretch’ the 15 hours across the full year resulting in fewer hours offered per week over more weeks of the year (e.g. 11 hours each week for 51 weeks).  

How do I find a free place?

If you are already using a childcare provider, speak to them directly about accessing a free place. 

Otherwise, to find a place please contact a childcare provider directly to check the days and times they have available. Local providers can be found within following links

Will I have to pay anything?

If you have been offered a completely free place then no additional fees should be charged. Some childcare providers offer a limited amount of places so if your provider has filled all their completely free places, you may prefer to look elsewhere. Alternatively you may still access the free 15 hours at your chosen childcare provider if you are happy to pay for additional hours.

What happens if I need childcare beyond the free 15 hours?

Additional hours are chargeable and rates will be variable. Your childcare provider can provide you with a list of charges.

Is there any help available to pay additional costs?

You may be able to get further help from the government to pay for childcare.  You can check to see if you are eligible for any additional support using the government's online childcare calculator

My child has a Special Educational Need or Disability

Childcare providers must offer support for children with a disability or identified special educational need, accessing their provision.  If your child has an additional need and/or has been identified as having special educational needs and/or a disability (SEND) and you are having difficulty in finding a free place, please call 020 8583 3470 and ask for support in finding a free place. 

Once your child has enrolled in either a day nursery or pre-school, they may be able to access extra support through the Early Years SEN Team.   In addition to this, from April 2017 further support will be made available to childcare providers through the Disability Access Fund to aid access to early years places

Can I use more than one provider?

It is more beneficial to your child to receive the entitlement at one childcare provider. If this is not possible the 15 hours can be split between two childcare providers.

What happens when my child starts attending a school nursery or reception class?

Once your child starts attending a school nursery or reception class they are considered to be using their full entitlement.  If your child continues to attend a childcare provider in addition to the school nursery class for the other half of the day, you will be required to pay for the care your child receives at the childcare provider.

More Information

If you have any concerns about your child’s free place, it is very important that you always discuss these with your childcare provider. If after speaking to them you are still not happy then please see the complaints procedure

From Sept 2017 eligible working families will be able to get an additional 15 hours of free childcare and early education. This is known as 30 hours free childcare for 3 & 4 year olds

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