Free Early Education Entitlement for 3 & 4 Year Olds

What is Free Early Education?

All 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to a free part-time early education place. This means your child will be eligible for 15 hours of free early education a week, across 38 weeks of the year. In St. Helens, your child can take this free early education at a Local Authority maintained school nursery or class, at a private day nursery or playgroup or with a childminder

You can search for providers of free early education using our Online Directory.

From September 2013 some 2 year olds will also be eligible depending upon family circumstances. You can find out more about this by visiting our dedicated 2 Year Funding web page:

 When can my child start?

Children are eligible for a free early education place if they are 3 on or before:

  • 31 August to start in the Autumn Term (September)
  • 31 December to start in the Spring Term (January)
  • 31 March to start in the Summer Term (April)

When can I use the 15 hours?

You may use the 15 hours flexibly over the week but there are some limits:

  • Each session must be at least 2.5 hours long
  • Sessions can be no longer than 10 hours
  • Sessions must be between 7.00am and 7.00pm

Please remember that providers may not be able to offer exactly what you want. However, providers should listen to your needs and try to adapt the delivery of their sessions to accommodate you in a way that will allow them to continue as a viable business.

If your child is looked after for a longer period than the education place runs for, then you will be required to pay additional costs. For example, if your child attends a day nursery full-time for 5 days a week, then you will only get some of that time for free (i.e. fifteen hours of free early education a week for 38 weeks a year), you will have to pay the nursery for the remaining hours.

Download our Free Early Years Education Leaflet or Factsheet to find out more, including how the funding is claimed and the differences between the types of providers.

You can also download our Directory of Providers for a full up-to-date list of the Private, Voluntary and Independent childcare settings that your child can go to.

You can find these under Related Documents to the right of this page.

Find out more

Search for childcare in St Helens, including details about locations, opening times and costs using our Online Directory

Telephone the Contact Centre on 01744 676789 or email

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