All 3 and 4-year-olds in England are entitled to 570 hours of free early education or childcare a year. This is often taken as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year. Some 2-year-olds are also eligible.

You can start claiming after your child turns 3. The date you can claim will depend on when their birthday is.

Child’s birthday When you can claim
1 January to 31 March the beginning of term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 August the beginning of term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 December the beginning of term on or after 1 January

Example Your child was born on 15 February 2012. They’ll become eligible for free early education and childcare from the start of term following 1 April 2015.

The free early education and childcare can be at:

  • nursery schools
  • nurseries on school sites
  • nursery classes in schools and academies
  • children’s centres
  • day nurseries
  • some playgroups and pre-school
  • childminders
  • Sure Start Children’s Centres

Contact your local council for more information about free early education and childcare in your area.

You can also search for help with childcare in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

2-year-olds

Some 2-year-olds in England can also get free early education and childcare.

You must be getting one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
  • Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit or both and have a gross household income of £16,190 a year or less

Children are also entitled to a place if:

If your child is eligible, you can start claiming after they turn 2. The date you can claim will depend on when their birthday is.

Child’s birthday When you can claim
1 January to 31 March the beginning of term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 August the beginning of term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 December the beginning of term on or after 1 January

Contact your local council to check if your child is eligible.

Inspections of early education providers

Early education providers are regulated and inspected by Ofsted. You can find out more about their inspections and read their inspection reports.