From the term following their third birthday, all children are entitled to receive early education funding.
Check the table below to see when funding will start:
|Child's birthday||When child becomes eligible for early education funding|
|1 January to 31 March||Start of school term beginning on or following 1 April after their third birthday|
|1 April to 31 August||Start of school term beginning on or following 1 September after their third birthday|
|1 September to 31 December||Start of school term beginning on or following 1 January after their third birthday|
The universal entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds is 570 hours a year (15 hours a week) of free early education over no fewer than 38 weeks a year. This means that some weeks aren’t funded, so check the early education funding calendars to find out which these are.
Working parents who meet certain criteria could be entitled to 30 hours of free early education for their 3 and 4 year olds. The free early education stops when your child starts in reception class (or reaches compulsory school age).
Some children will be entitled to free childcare for two year olds.
Other help towards childcare costs include:
- tax free childcare
- tax credits
- universal credits for childcare
- childcare vouchers
You can check Childcare Choices' website to see which might be best for you.
Your child’s free early education can be taken in a school nursery, a private, voluntary or independent setting, a family centre, or with a childminder who is registered with Ofsted and the council to receive the funding.
Your child must be registered and attending at a childcare setting on headcount week to receive early education funding.
Find a registered early education provider
How to claim early education funding
The childcare provider you choose will ask you to complete a Parent Declaration Form before your child starts to attend for their free hours. They’ll need to see your child’s birth certificate to make sure they’re the right age to receive funding. The provider will then claim the funding on your behalf.
If you are entitled to the extended 30 hours funding, the childcare provider will ask for a code to confirm that you are eligible. You can find out how to apply for the code on our page about 30 hours of free early education.
How we pay early education funding
We’ll process the claim and pay the funding directly to your childcare provider to cover the cost of the education they have provided to your child. If your child attends a childcare setting for more than 15 hours a week (or 30 hours if you are eligible for the extended entitlement), the provider will charge you for those extra hours. If the cost of your child’s funded early years place is less than the funding we pay the provider, the setting can use the excess funding to support the education of eligible age children.
We pay funding to your child’s setting for a full term based on a headcount day each term. We will only adjust funding if your child moves to another setting after the headcount has been taken and before the adjustment week closes which is towards the end of the term. If you do wish to move your child’s provider you’ll need to check with the manager of the new setting whether there’s a funded place for your child for the rest of the term.
What we mean by headcount day
Headcount day is a date that we set every term, when children attending early years settings are counted. If the headcount day falls on a day that your child doesn’t normally attend the setting, they’ll still be counted, as long as they attend on their regular days during that week.
How you can use your Universal entitlement of 15 funded hours a week (or 570 hours per year)
Although there is no maximum number of providers specified in the statutory guidance, you can claim funding from providers at a maximum of 2 sites per day. Your child can attend up to a maximum of 10 hours a day between 6am and 8pm, (there is no minimum session length). These are some of the different ways you can use the hours:
- three hours a day over five days a week
- five hours a day over three days a week
- 15 hours over two days a week
- Stretch the entitlement over more than 38 weeks per year by accessing fewer than 15 hours per week
How you can use your extended entitlement of 30 funded hours a week (or a total of 1140 hours per year)
Although there is no maximum number of providers specified in the statutory guidance, you can claim funding from providers at a maximum of 2 sites per day. Your child can attend up to a maximum of 10 hours a day between 6am and 8pm, (there is no minimum session length).
You can also choose to ‘stretch’ the entitlement so instead of taking 30 hours per week over 38 weeks this could be stretched to 23.75 hours over 48 weeks (for example).
Check the Statutory Guidance on Early Years and Childcare for more information.
Early Education Funding: 01226 774513
Families Information Service: 08000 345340
Frequently asked questions
How do I find out which providers offer funded places?
For a list of all registered private providers see the Family Services Directory.
When will I be able to claim assistance towards the cost of an early years place?
Usually from the term following your child’s third birthday:
|Child's birthday||When child becomes eligible for early education funding|
|1 January to 31 March||Start of school term beginning on or following 1 April after their 3rd birthday|
|1 April to 31 August||Start of school term beginning on or following 1 September after their 3rd birthday|
|1 September to 31 December||Start of school term beginning on or following 1 January after their 3rd birthday|
The Authority does offer some 2 year old funded places for eligible children.
How do I apply to a private nursery/ playgroup, children's centre or childminder?
Contact the provider directly. You’ll find contact numbers on the Family Services Directory.
If my child attends a private nursery, playgroup, children's centre or childminder does that mean he/she can’t stay on the waiting list for a school nursery?
If you have applied for a school nursery, your child’s name will automatically remain on that list unless you ask us to remove it or you’re offered a place at another council nursery.
Can my child attend a private nursery, playgroup, children's centre or childminder and a school nursery?
Yes, you can access the 15 hours (or 30 hours if you are eligible for the extended entitlement) across any number of settings provided that you do not exceed more than 2 sites in one day.
The private provider requires one month’s notice to withdraw my child - if I’m offered a nursery place at a school do I have to accept it immediately?
If you have to give notice, the place at the council nursery will be kept open for that time.
What is the ‘Headcount Day’?
The date on which the count of children attending early years settings is taken each term.
’Headcount Day’ is on a Thursday but my child only attends nursery on a Monday and Tuesday - will they have to attend on that Thursday in order to get funding?
No - providing your child attends on their regular days during the week that includes ‘Headcount Day’ your child will be eligible to receive the funding.
What if my child moves to a different early education funded setting after the Headcount date?
Funding can be adjusted at the old setting and paid to the new setting for any movement prior to the last 3 weeks of term, after which time it is not possible to adjust the claim. You are advised to check on any notice periods required by the current setting before your child leaves, as failure to give the appropriate notice may lead to you receiving a bill from them.
What if my child attends for more than 15 hours per week?
You’ll have to pay the full cost of anything over the 15 hours, unless you have a valid code for the extended 30 hour entitlement.
What if my child attends more than one early education provider?
You can claim for any number of settings so long as your child does not attend more than 2 sites in a day and your total claim is not more than 15 hours per week (or 30 hours if eligible for the extended entitlement).
I live in Barnsley but my child attends a provider in a neighbouring council - can I still claim the funding?
Yes, you’ll be able to claim the funding from the council in which the nursery is situated.