Statutory guidance

Early education and childcare

Statutory guidance for local authorities on the provision of early education and childcare.

Applies to England


Early education and childcare (applies until 31 March 2024)


This guidance is for local authorities.

It relates to their duties under section 2 of the Childcare Act 2016 and sections 6, 7, 7A, 9A, 12 and 13 of the Childcare Act 2006.

It contains information on:

  • free childcare entitlements for 2-, 3- and 4-year olds
  • 30 hours free childcare
  • the introduction of 30 hours free childcare for children in foster care

Statutory guidance sets out what schools and local authorities must do to comply with the law. You should follow the guidance unless you have a good reason not to.

A model agreement for free early years provision and childcare is also available.

Updates to this page

Published 8 September 2014
Last updated 1 January 2024 + show all updates
  1. Updated with new statutory guidance which applies from 1 April 2024.

  2. Updated guidance for local authorities making decisions on funding providers registered at an ‘ineffective' childminder agency to deliver the free early education and childcare entitlements. Changes are included in para A3.13.

  3. Removed outdated guidance documents.

  4. Added new guidance for 1 September 2018.

  5. Replaced 'Early education and childcare: valid from 1 September 2017' with an updated version.

  6. Updated Part E: legal annex about free early education entitlement for two-year-olds under Universal Credit. The legislation comes into force on 1 April 2018.

  7. Added a new version of the statutory guidance that will be valid from 1 September 2017.

  8. First published.

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