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.

Some 2 year olds are also be eligible depending upon family circumstances. You can find out more about this by visiting our dedicated 2 Year Funding web page: www.sthelens.gov.uk/free2

 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.

Childcare settings claim funding directly from the LA, in order to give your child a free early education place. You will not see any monies or vouchers. How to secure a place for your child will depend upon how you want to access the funding. Generally, to access a place with a Maintained provider you will need to complete the Local Authority’s application form included in the Nursey Education Booklet.

To access a place with a PVI provider you will need to contact the nursery or playgroup of your choice to check availability and to secure a place for your child. You will then need to complete a Parental Contract available from the provider.


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 contactcentre@sthelens.gov.uk

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