Funded early education for three and four year olds

Find out about free childcare for three to four year olds.

15 hours funded childcare

All three and four year olds are entitled to up to 15 hours of funded early education for 38 weeks of the year. 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 297000.

30 hours funded childcare

Working families may also be eligible for an additional 15 hours per week of funded childcare – a total of 30 hours funded childcare.

To find out if you are eligible visit the Childcare Choices website. Take a look at our guidance on applying and creating an account.

Childcare Choices have produced a Top things for parents toolkit  to support you with applying for 30 hours childcare and tax free childcare.

Childcare Choices logo

Your child can have their funded place the term following their third birthday. If your child’s third birthday falls between:

  • 1 January to 31 March – they can have a funded place from the Easter term
  • 1 April to 31 August – they can have a funded place from the September term
  • 1 September to 31 December – they can have a funded place from the January term

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 297000.

The 30 hours funding is to:

  • support working parents to manage the cost of childcare
  • support parents into work
  • enable parents to increase their working hours

To find out if you are eligible 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.

Reconfirming eligibility

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 to do if your 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

Children in foster care

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.

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:

  • 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.

Early Years Pupil Premium

If your child is in early years education, your early years provider could be eligible for extra funding to help support your child. 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.

Who can apply

To find out who can apply visit Get extra funding for your early years provider on Gov.UK.

How to apply

EYPP funding 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 to find out if your 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.

If your 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.

If your child attends two childcare providers

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.

How the money is 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.

Types of childcare providers 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.

Monitoring 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.

Further information on EYPP

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 Disability Access Fund on the SEND Local Offer website.