Funded early education for three and four year olds

All three and four year olds are entitled to up to 15 hours of funded early education for 38 weeks of the year. Working families may also be eligible for an additional 15 hours per week of funded childcare – a total of 30 hours funded childcare.

Children are eligible the school term after their third birthday (autumn, spring and summer terms).

The entitlement provides a valuable educational opportunity for children, encouraged by a carer to learn through play. They will have fun in a safe and nurturing environment whilst making friends and preparing for school.

To access the universal 15 hours of early education funding contact your child’s existing carer or contact the Family Information Service to find out details of your local childcare providers on 01724 296629.

To access the extended 15 hours for working families you must meet an eligibility criteria and apply via the Childcare Choices website.

Childcare Choices have produced a Top things for parents toolkit [PDF, 356Kb] to support you with applying for 30 hours childcare and tax free childcare.

Your child can have their funded place the term following their third birthday:

If your child’s 3rd birthday falls between When they can have a funded place
1 January to 31 March From the Easter term
1 April to 31 August From the September term
1 September to 31 December From the January term

Am I eligible?

The extra funding is to:

  • Support working parents to manage the cost of childcare
  • Support parents into work
  • Enable parents to increase their working hours

Therefore, to qualify for the extended entitlement, parents of three and four year olds will need to meet the following criteria:

  • Both parents, or a lone parent where appropriate, must be in employment and expect to earn (on average) at least £120 a week.  This is equal to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage. This applies whether you are in paid employment, self-employed or on a zero-hour contract.
  • Where one or both parents are on maternity, paternity, shared parental or adoption leave, or if they are on statutory sick leave.
  • Where one parent meets the income criteria and the other is unable to work because they are disabled, have caring responsibilities or have been assessed as having limited capacity to work.
  • Where a parent is in a ‘start-up period’ (for example they are newly self-employed) they do not need to demonstrate that they meet the income criteria for 12 months.
  • If the parent is a non-EEA national, they must have recourse to public funds.
  • The parent (and their partner where applicable) should be seeking the funded childcare to enable them to work.

Children in foster care who are aged three or four years old will be able to receive 30 hours free childcare, if the following criteria are met:

  • Accessing the extended hours is consistent with the child’s care plan; and
  • Where there is a single foster parent family, the foster parent is engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent; or
  • Where there are two foster parents in the same fostering household, both are engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent.

Before progressing further, foster carers should discuss eligibility with their social worker who will advise them of the application process.

Who will not qualify?

A parent will not meet the eligibility criteria when:

  • Either parent has an income of more than £100,000
  • Either parent is a non-EEA national and subject to Immigration Control (and has no recourse to public funds)
  • Students

How do I apply?

To apply for the extended 15 hours of funding visit the Childcare Choices website.

Here you can create a Government Gateway account and then apply for the ’30 hours childcare’. Successful applicants are given an eleven-digit eligibility code. This should be given to your chosen childcare provider who can then validate this and offer you the extended hours. All codes have a start and end date, lasting for approximately three months.

Childcare Choices provides a straightforward explanation of all Government childcare support, including tax credits or universal credits for childcare and the recently launched tax free childcare. A childcare calculator is available for all families that can quickly find out which of the childcare offers available works for their family. It is recommended that you use the calculator to ensure that you access the most beneficial childcare support for your family.

Important information:

To keep your 30 hours funded placed you need to confirm that your details are up to date every three months. You will be reminded to do this via an email a month before.

To do this you need to log onto your Childcare Choices Childcare Account and confirm that your circumstances have not changed.

If you do not reconfirm by the eligibility code ‘end date’ it could affect your funding. For example:

  • If your eligibility code ‘end date’ is before the start of term (where you have not accessed any funded hours previously) – your code is invalid in the next term.
  • If you have chosen to use only the universal 15 hours (but have an eligibility code for 30 hours), if you do not access any extended hours by the eligibility code ‘end date’ – your code is invalid in the next term.
  • If you start a new provider in your grace period you will not be eligible for the extended hours. You can still claim the universal hours.
  • If you split your funding between two providers and you wish to move to just one provider.  If your eligibility code ‘end date’ has passed – your code is invalid (if you choose your universal 15 hour provider only).

What happens if my circumstances change?

  • If your circumstances have changed and your family no longer meets the eligibility criteria, you will retain your funded place for a short period (grace period) so you will not immediately lose your childcare place. The grace period end date will coincide with the end of a school term.
  • If your circumstances change during the grace period, you can reconfirm your eligibility with Childcare Choices. If eligible, your child can continue to receive the extended hours.
  • You cannot start a new provider during your grace period

A child should not start a new 30 hours place in their grace period. This includes in the following scenarios:

  • Where a parent falls into their grace period before the child has started a 30 hours place
  • Where a parent falls into their grace period whilst their child is in a 30 hours place, and the parent attempts to move the child to a different setting

You must access your child’s early education at an Ofsted registered childcarer. The choice is yours:

  • a private day nursery
  • a pre-school or playgroup
  • a children’s centre with day care
  • with a registered childminder
  • a school or academy
  • or an out of school club or holiday club

Contact the Family Information Service to find out more details and to find your nearest Ofsted registered providers at fis@northlincs.gov.uk or call them on 01724 296629.

If your child is not already attending a registered provider, you will need to contact your preferred provider to determine if they have a place available.

If your child is already attending an Ofsted registered provider they can offer you the funded early education.

Early Education can be used as flexibly as possible over the year.  There is no requirement for you to access the total number of hours you are eligible for or to take them on a particular day of the week.

However, you will not be able to have:

  • more than 10 funded hours a day
  • funded hours any time before 6am or after 8pm

15 hours early education is:

  • up to 15 hours available over a minimum of two days a week during term time
  • or 570 hours over 51 weeks within your providers opening hours*

30 hours early education is:

  • up to 30 hours available over three to seven days of the week during term time
  • or 1,140 hours over 51 weeks within your provider’s opening hours*

*Discuss times with individual settings – some restrictions may apply. The level of flexibility is subject to reasonable parent requirements and your chosen providers ability to meet such needs.

Reconfirming eligibility for 30 hours

Families eligible for 30 hours childcare are required to reconfirm that they are still eligible for 30 hours childcare every three months, using your childcare service account, even if you have not yet taken up your place. It is easy to do. If your details have not changed you just tick a box to confirm this. You will be reminded to do this four weeks before the reconfirmation deadline. It is important you let Childcare Choices know if your circumstances have changed. Your details will be checked against other systems.

If you miss the reconfirmation deadline, you will receive a message telling you that your eligibility has lapsed. You should go into your childcare account and reconfirm.

When you have reconfirmed your eligibility your childcare provider will automatically be informed and you can continue to access your funded childcare place for your child.

If you reconfirm and you’re no longer eligible, or do not reconfirm, you may be able to continue your 30 hours childcare place for a short period, known as the grace period. You should check your grace period arrangements with your childcare provider.

Your chosen childcare provider will ask you to complete a Parent Agreement Form (PAF). You will need to complete your child’s details and sign the form. You must then return the form to your provider along with a copy of your child’s birth certificate. If you are claiming the extended 15 hours you must also provide the eligibility code and evidence of your National Insurance number.

The level of flexibility is subject to reasonable parent requirements and your chosen provider’s ability to meet such needs. Not all schools and providers will be able to offer the full 30 funded hours. They may be limited by the building design, opening times, staffing or simply that they are full to their capacity. You may wish to look at splitting your funding.

Funding can be split between providers if this meets the needs of the family. For example you may combine a:

  • day nursery and pre-school
  • pre-school and childminder or before and after school club
  • pre-school and Ofsted registered holiday club

You can take up the early education across a maximum of two sites in one day. This is to support the wellbeing of your child by minimising the number of transfers experienced in one day.

Any additional hours will need to be paid for. Tax Free Childcare or childcare vouchers (from employers) are available to support families with the cost of childcare – visit the Childcare Choices website.

Your child must attend their contracted hours each week or you may lose all or part of your funded entitlement.

You cannot increase or decrease your child’s funded entitlement during the term. The agreement you complete stating the hours of funding you require lasts for a minimum of one term.

It is expected that parents will not (except in exceptional circumstances) move providers during the term. If you move provider, a notice period will be honoured with your existing provider before any funding will transfer to your child’s new provider.

Your choice of provider (whether in the private, voluntary or maintained nursery sector)  will not affect in any way your admission into a school reception class.

Further terms and conditions for the entitlement are on the parent agreement form from your provider.

  • You may be asked to pay a refundable deposit by your chosen childcare provider to reserve your funded place. If you do not take up your funded place or access a place for less than a term this may not be refunded.
  • Any additional hours over and above the funded entitlement will be charged by your chosen provider at their rates and may include a registration fee. You should discuss this with your chosen provider.
  • Children have the option of taking a packed lunch if they wish. Settings who offer meals may charge for this service (including breakfast, lunch, tea and snacks). This should be discussed with your provider. Where meals are included in your early education funded hours you should not be charged for the care, only the food.
  • You may wish to purchase a uniform if the setting has one, but this is not compulsory.
  • If there are trips or other activities that the setting may organise for the children and you do not want to pay for your child to go, the setting will offer an alternative activity.

What is Early Years Pupil Premium?

Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) is additional funding for eligible three and four year olds attending their 15 hours of funded early education.

The money is paid to the childcare provider to help them to better meet the needs of children and maximise their learning in readiness to go to school. The childcare provider can receive up to £300 of additional funding for each child.

Will my child be eligible?

Yes – if your child is three or four years of age and is accessing up to 15 hours of funded childcare and you are in receipt of one or more of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Income-related Employment Support Allowance
  • Support from NASS (National Asylum Support Service) under part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The Guaranteed Element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (with no Working Tax Credit) and an annual income of no more than £16,190;
  • Working Tax Credit 4-weeks run-on
  • Universal Credit

Or your child has left care through adoption, special guardianship, or child arrangements order, or if they are looked after by the local authority. Your childcare provider may ask you for confirmation of your care arrangements.

How do I receive the EYPP?

You do not receive the EYPP funding. It is paid directly to your childcare provider as part of their funding claim for the funded early learning and care.

To enable them to access the funding you will need to provide:

  • your name
  • your date of birth
  • your National Insurance Number or National Asylum Support Service Number on a Parent Agreement Form

This is completed when you register your child with your childcare provider for two, three or four year old funding.

How will I know if my childcare provider is receiving the EYPP for my child?

If you complete your details on a Parent Agreement Form at your childcare provider, the council can then check your eligibility with HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions. They will then advise your childcare provider if funding is being paid for your child. The childcare provider should inform parents of their eligibility and discuss with you regularly your child’s progress of learning at the childcare setting.

What happens if my financial circumstances change?

Once a check has been undertaken and your child is eligible for EYPP, they will remain eligible until they turn four years of age. If they are not in a school reception class at four years, a second eligibility check will be undertaken using the information on your original application.

If you have provided your details and were found not eligible at the point of application, your details will be regularly checked and funding released if your family circumstances change.

If your circumstances change and you have not provided your details to enable an EYPP check to be undertaken you should ask your child’s key worker for a Parent Agreement Form. You will need to complete your child’s name, your name, date of birth and National Insurance Number or National Asylum Support Service Number. These details will be checked and your childcare provider will advise you whether your child is eligible.

How much is the funding?

The funding amounts to 53 pence per hour. It is directly linked to the number of funded hours of early learning and care your child is accessing. So if your child is attending for 10 hours a week the childcare provider will be paid £5.30 (53p x 10) per week.

My child attends two childcare providers who will receive the EYPP funding?

The EYPP funding is directly linked to your 15 hours of funded early learning and care. If your child attends two childcare providers, each will receive a proportion of the funding based on the number of funded early learning and care hours your child attends at each.

Will I be involved in how the money is being spent?

Your child’s key person will regularly discuss your child’s time with the childcare provider. The additional funding will be used to support your child’s learning and development.

Your provider may combine the EYPP funding for several children or work with other childcare providers, in order to fund specific training or activities.

What type of childcare provider is eligible to receive the EYPP?

Any Ofsted registered childcare provider can receive the EYPP. In North Lincolnshire this includes childminders, school and academy nurseries, pre-schools and day nurseries.

Who monitors how the childcare provider spends the money?

When your childcare provider is inspected by Ofsted, they will be asked to demonstrate how they have used the additional funding to show the difference it has made to children in their care. Your childcare provider may use the funding to support children with:

  • Personal, social and emotional development
  • Communication and language
  • Physical development
  • Literacy

This may include new equipment, training for staff members or other initiatives which support the children’s learning. Each childcare provider will use different approaches depending on the needs of the children. Ask your childcare provider how they have spent their funding.

I have another question

Further details on the Early Years Pupil Premium are available from your childcare provider. They can tell you whether your child is eligible and how they are spending the additional funding to boost your child’s learning and development. Alternatively, you can email the Childcare Sufficiency Team at eef@northlincs.gov.uk.

The Disability Access Fund (DAF) aids access to early years places. It helps childcare providers to make reasonable adjustments for the benefit of children attending the setting. This may include a change to the building, new resources to support your child or higher staffing levels to support inclusion of your child. This is in addition to the SEND Inclusion Fund that providers can apply for to assist them with staffing levels to ensure their provision fully supports the inclusion and early education of your child.

For more information please visit the SEND Local Offer website.