Free childcare for three and four-year-olds

We help you understand what free childcare options may be available to you for three and four-year-olds

What free childcare can I get for my three/ four-year-old?

The lowdown on what free childcare is available for three and four-year-olds and how to find what you’re eligible for and when

Childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

We help you understand what entitlements may be available for your three or four-year-old.

Is everyone entitled to free childcare for three to four-year-olds?

Yes, every parent in England is entitled to 570 free childcare hours per year. It’s usually been taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but (from September 2017) this doubled to 30 hours, if you qualify -see below. You can choose to take fewer hours over more weeks and there’s no need for you to worry about the paperwork involved as your nursery provider fills in local authority paperwork with you. 

How can I get the 30 free hours a week?

In order to get the additional 15 hours/week you need to be working 16 hours/week at national minimum and living wage (currently £125.28/week; while both in a couple must work) and no one parent can earn £100,000+/year.  

Are there any restrictions I need to know?

In order to claim your free childcare hours for three and four-year-olds, here’s what you need to know:

  • It must be with an approved childcare provider
  • It stops when your child starts in reception class (or reaches compulsory school age, if later)
  • You can get it from the term after your child’s 3rd birthday.

If you need to find out any more about free childcare hours, you can contact your childcare provider or local council to find out more.

Are the rules different in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?

Yes, each have their own rules, here’s what you need to know in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

In Northern Ireland you’re able to be funded for preschool education in a nursery school, primary school with nursery class, or from some private and voluntary providers. You are entitled to this the year before your child enters Primary One. 

The rules in Scotland say you can get 600 hours of free childcare for all three and four-year-olds, your local authority will let you know more.

In Wales all three and four-year-olds can get a minimum of 10 hours of free, part-time Foundation Phase education in a school, or funded nursery. In some areas, local authorities offer more so contact your local authority to find out what you are entitled to.

Free childcare for three and four-year-olds