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Free early years Play and Learn sessions for 2 year olds

Some two year olds in England are entitled to free, part-time early learning, care and development.

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).

Is your child eligible?

Your two year old can get free play and learn sessions if you live in England and get one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit - if you and your partner have a combined income from work of less than £15,400 a year after tax
  • Tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
  • The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Support through part six of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • The Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

A child can also get free early education and childcare if any of the following apply:

  • they're looked after by a local council
  • they have a current statement of special educational needs or an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan
  • they get Disability Living Allowance
  • they've left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order

When could your child start?

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. 

Where can you access Play and Learn sessions? 

Visit the Families Information Service website to search for providers in your area.

How do you apply?

If you have received a golden ticket, take it to your chosen nursery or childminder. They will check your code and tell you when your child can start.

If you don't have a golden ticket visit our Parent Portal where you can check whether you are eligible. If you are eligible you will then receive a letter with your eligibility code. Take this to your chosen nursery or childminder who will check your code and tell you when your child can start.

You can't check your child's eligibility on the Parent Portal if your child:

  • is looked after by us
  • has a current statement of special educational needs or an Education, Health and Care plan
  • has left care through special guardianship or an adoption or residence order
  • is in receipt of the Disability Living Allowance

You will need to contact us directly. If you don't have access to a computer or need help to apply you can visit your local Children's Centre or libraries or you can contact us for a paper copy.

Applications will not be considered until the beginning of the term that the child turns two.

More about Play and Learn sessions

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 Icon for pdf Frequently asked questions (PDF, 236.8kb)  about free Play and Learn sessions for 2 year olds.

Contact us
Childcare places
03000 268 913
Our address is:
  • Childcare Places
  • Durham County Council
  • County Hall
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 5UJ
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