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Free Early Education Entitlement for 2-Year-Olds

Standard Criteria April 2018 onwards
The criteria for accessing 15 hours' worth of free education for some 2-year-olds is stated below. Up to 15 hours per week over a minimum of 38 weeks per year is available, depending on your family circumstances, with nurseries, playgroups or childminders.

To be eligible to receive a free early education place for your 2-year-old, you will need to meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Income Support
  • Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Universal Credit (with net household earnings of no more than £15,400)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The Guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit/ Working Tax Credits providing you have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190
  • The child has a current Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
  • The child attracts Disability Living Allowance
  • Looked after children and children who have left care through adoption orders, child arrangement or special guardianship orders

We have created this FAQs sheet explaining changes to Universal Credit eligibility that came into effect earlier this year.

Confused about which of your benefits and tax credits can be used with your childcare? This guide should help!


Your child turns 2 between:

You can apply for a place:

Your child will start their funded place:

1 April - 31 August 1 May - 31 August 1 September (Autumn Term)
1 September - 31 December 1 October - 31 December 1 January (Spring Term)
1 January - 31 March 1 February - 31 March 1 April (Summer Term)


Children like to explore the world around them, play with other children and have fun. Good early years education from a young age can help children to:

  • Become more confident
  • Play and join in with other children
  • Develop their language skills
  • Learn new things
  • Prepare for school

Please check the criteria listed above carefully to see if your child could be eligible for a funded place. If you think that you might be eligible, then you can Apply Online  or alternatively you can ring the Free Early Education Entitlement Team using the contact information below and we will do the check for you and give you an immediate response.

If you are caring for a Looked After Child or your child is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or has left care through adoption, special guardianship order or is subject to a child arrangement order then please do not apply online as you will automatically qualify and do not require a check. In these circumstances please contact the Free Early Education Entitlement Team on 01744 676541/676542/676557.