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Advice Column – I have heard that there will be 30 hours free nursery education for 3 and 4 year old children?


I have heard that there will be 30 hours free nursery education for 3 and 4 year old children?  

Is this available now?  If not, when will it be available?

Childcare Minister, Sam Gyimah announced that some councils across the country will be funded to deliver 30 hours of free childcare for 3- and 4-year-olds from September 2016.

The councils affected are Wigan, Staffordshire, Swindon, Portsmouth, Northumberland, York, Newham and Hertfordshire.

The intention is that there will be a full rollout of this in 2017.

For now, the following information about free nursery care applies.

Free childcare and education for 2 to 4-year-olds

All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. This is usually taken as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year. You can spread this flexibly over at least three days a week during normal term times.  Some 2-year-olds are also eligible.

Not all nurseries, schools or playgroups take part in the scheme to provide free early education places. Your local education authority holds lists of places which provide early education. The places may be in nursery schools, nursery classes in primary schools or reception classes in primary schools. Other places may be in playgroups, private day nurseries, independent schools, or with child minders who belong to an approved network. Even if the place would normally charge fees, you will not have to pay for the number of hours you are entitled to for free. However, if your child attends for longer than that, you may have to pay for extra hours.

3 to 4-year-olds

You can start claiming free childcare after your child turns 3. The date you can claim will depend on when their birthday is.

Child’s birthdayWhen you can claim
1 January to 31 Marchthe beginning of term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 Augustthe beginning of term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 Decemberthe beginning of term on or after 1 January

Example: Your child was born on 15 February 2012. They can get free early education and childcare from the start of term following 1 April 2015. 

The free early education and childcare can be at:

Contact your local council for more information about free early education and childcare in your area.

You can’t continue to claim free childcare once your child starts reception class in a state school.

2-year-olds

Some 2-year-olds in England can get free early education and childcare.

You must be getting one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • tax credits and have an annual income under £16,190 before tax
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
  • Universal Credit

Children are also entitled to a place if:

If your child is eligible, you can start claiming after they turn 2. The date you can claim will depend on when their birthday is.

Child’s birthdayWhen you can claim
1 January to 31 Marchthe beginning of term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 Augustthe beginning of term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 Decemberthe beginning of term on or after 1 January

Contact your local council to check if your child is eligible.

Further information:

You can find information about schools and other organisations providing early education places in England by contacting the Children’s information service run by your local authority and at: www.gov.uk.

If you cannot find a suitable place offering free early education, you should contact your local education authority. For all other problems with free early education, you should contact the organisation involved.

For more information about problems with early education, see under the heading Dealing with problems at school, in Problems at school at www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

You can find more information about provision for two year olds on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk

Children with special educational needs (SEN)

A pupil with special educational needs (SEN) is defined as a pupil who:

  • has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of pupils of their age, or
  • has a disability which means that they cannot make full use of the general educational facilities provided for pupils of their age.

In England, a pupil with SEN is entitled to receive full-time education that is appropriate to their needs. This applies to children and young people between the ages of two and 19. This may be in a special school or a mainstream school, or somewhere else. You have the right to educate your child at home subject as long as this meets your child’s needs – see under the heading Home education at www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

In England, it may be against the law for a local education authority to discriminate against a pupil with SEN. This is because a child with SEN would usually be counted as a disabled pupil and disability discrimination is against the law. For example, a school must make reasonable adjustments to allow for a pupil’s disability. However, not all pupils with SEN count as disabled pupils.

For information about disability discrimination in England, see Discrimination in education at www.citizensadvice.org.uk

For more information about SEN in England, see Special educational needs at www.citizensadvice.org.uk