Funded 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.

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

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

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.

The first thing you need to do is find a childcare provider who accepts childcare funding. They will apply for the funding on your behalf. Your child must be registered with your childcare provider by the headcount date of the claim period (you provider will let you know when this is).

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. This form gives your provider authority 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 different 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 the two providers. We will use the parent/carer claim form if a dispute arises between two providers.

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.

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, Children’s Centre staff or other professional.

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.

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

For some families, their child's entitlement could be up to 1,140 hours, if certain criteria is met.

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 in order 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.

Yes. You can use up to two providers, but you cannot claim more than 15 hours per week in total.

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).

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 is able to make a choice about their early education arrangements. It is also not a requirement within the statutory guidance.

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