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All three and four year olds and some two year olds in England are currently entitled to free, part-time early learning, care and development.
Services are available for up to two years, until children reach statutory school age.
Children can currently attend on a part-time basis for 15 hours a week, for 38 weeks of the year. This can be taken flexibly over a minimum of two days, and a minimum of 2 ½ hours per day with up to two providers.
From September 2017, working parents of 3 and 4 year olds will be able to access 30 hours of free childcare per week depending on their circumstances. (See below for more details).
From September 2017, the 30 hours of free childcare will be available to parents and carers of 3 and 4 year olds where:
Full details are yet to be confirmed by the Department for Education but the government intends that the additional entitlement should be available in the following circumstances:
The government believes that this will help these households to maintain one parent in employment or enable them to increase their hours of work whilst supporting the other parent with their own needs.
Visit the Families Information Service website to search for free early years providers in your area and contact them direct to apply.
Some two year olds may be entitled to free early education up until the term after their third birthday at 'Play and Learn' sessions. This can take place at a nursery, playgroup or with a childminder. If you are eligible, your child could receive 15 hours a week (term time only), or 11 hours a week (50 weeks a year).
Children are eligible if they:
If you qualify, your child could take up their 'play and learn' sessions any time between the term after their 2nd birthday and the term after their 3rd birthday.
Visit the Families Information Service website to search for providers in your area.
Research shows children who go to good and outstanding nurseries, pre-schools and child minders make good progress with their language, physical and social development. When the time comes for school they settle in quickly and do well in their new class. Places are available in good quality settings so you can be confident that your child is receiving quality education and childcare helping them with their early learning through giving them new experiences. It will give you the chance to spend time with other family commitments, do some training or study or take a part-time job.
You can download a list of Frequently asked questions (PDF, 235kb) about free Play and Learn sessions for 2 year olds.