Toggle mobile menu visibility

Funded early education and childcare for all 3 and 4-year-olds

All 3 and 4-year-olds, living in England, are entitled to 570 funded hours of early education and childcare, over three claim periods each year. This is known as the Universal Offer.

For working parents, their child's entitlement could be up to 1,140 hours each year, if certain criteria are met.

Early education and childcare will offer your child an opportunity to learn through play and new experiences, alongside other children. These learning experiences will enable your child to build on what they already know and do with you at home.

  • You do not have to use all the 15 funded hours each week
  • Some early education and childcare providers are able to spread the funded hours across the year
  • Not all providers are able to offer 15 funded hours
  • You can choose to take your funded hours between more than one provider

A child will receive funded early education and childcare until they reach statutory school age or attend school in a maintained or academy reception class (Year R).

3 and 4 year old

When can a child start receiving a funded childcare place?

The date a child is eligible for funded early education and childcare is based on the child's date of birth. A child becomes eligible at the start of the next claim period following their third birthday.

  • If your child's birthday is 1 January to 31 March, you can claim from the beginning of term on or after 1 April
  • If your child's birthday is 1 April to 31 August, you can claim from the beginning of term on or after 1 September
  • If your child's birthday is 1 September to 31 December, you can claim from the beginning of term on or after 1 January

We recommend that you check with your chosen provider when your child will be eligible to receive funding.

Further information can be found at


How to apply

You do not need a funding code to receive your universal entitlement of 570 funded hours of early education and childcare.

The first thing you need to do is find a childcare provider who accepts early education funding and will apply for the funding on your behalf. 

Each claim period your childcare provider(s) will give you a parent/carer claim form to complete, sign and return to them by a specific date. Signing this form gives your provider consent to share your information and complete eligibility checks, to claim the funding entitlement from us for your child.

If you need any help completing this form contact your childcare provider.

If your child is attending two or more providers, the form must be countersigned by the other provider. This ensures that each provider is aware of what the other will be claiming on your behalf and makes certain that funding is split correctly between them. We will use the parent/carer claim form if a dispute arises.

If the provider claims more hours on your behalf than we will fund, your provider may invoice you for these hours at their hourly rate.


Find a childcare provider

A variety of childcare providers can offer early education and childcare for your child. You or your referrer* will need to contact the provider direct to find out if a place is available and to agree your childcare. Your preferred provider may operate a waiting list, so it is essential that you contact them in good time to discuss your requirements.

Find a childcare provider

If you are having problems finding a place visit Problems finding childcare for help.

*A referrer can help parents/carers with each step of the application process. A referrer could be a childcare provider or other professional.


Do all childcare providers offer the 15 funded hours?

No. It is optional for approved childcare providers to offer the 15 funded hours. You can check who offers it on our Norfolk Community Directory.


How many hours are funded?

All 3 and 4-year-olds, living in England, are entitled to 570 funded hours, over three claim periods each academic year. 

The maximum number of funded hours will be dependent on your child's pattern of attendance and the childcare agreement with your chosen provider.

It is important to discuss your childcare requirements with your provider, to get the best arrangement for you both.

Funding must be claimed using the following rules:

  • 15 hours over at least two days per week
  • 10 hours maximum per day
  • 15 hours maximum per week 

Parents can choose to take these hours in two different ways:

  • The hours can be taken 15 hours per week x 38 weeks = 570 hours (38 weeks is equivalent to three school terms)
  • The hours can be taken as a "stretched offer". The stretched offer means that parents can use fewer hours over more weeks. For example: 11 hours per week x 50 weeks = 550 hours 

Where the total hours fall short of the maximum available, it may be possible for your provider to offer extra hours (within the rules), so that your child receives their full entitlement.

Any unclaimed hours can be transferred to another claim period within the cycle of eligibility.

If your child attends more than the hours available in a claim period, you will be responsible for these fees.


Can I use more than one childcare provider to claim the 15 funded hours?

Yes. You can share the entitlement between providers, but you cannot claim more than 15 hours per week in total.


Deferring entry to school and continuing early education

Deferred entry is where a parent decides to delay their child's admission to school. Parents of children starting school will be offered a full-time place. If you wish to defer entry or want to request part-time entry, so your child continues at their early education provider instead, you should speak to the headteacher at the school. The date should be agreed with the chosen school. Visit schools admissions for more information.

The child must attend school before the compulsory age, which is the first term after their fifth birthday. Guidance on deferring your child's Reception place until the following year (pdf) (PDF) [108KB].

We don't ask early education providers to seek approval to continue offering early education to 'rising fives' (children who are going to turn five). Provided the child meets the birth date criteria for the early education claim period, a parent/carer can make a choice about their early education arrangements. It is also not a requirement within the statutory guidance.