Free childcare for all 3 and 4-year-olds

Free early education and childcare is available to all 3 and 4-year-olds living in England. They are entitled to 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year.

In September 2017, the Government extended the free childcare entitlement for eligible working parents, to 30 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year.

A child will receive free 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 free early learning 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 (this will be advised to you by your provider).

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 learning 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 free hours. You can check who offers it on our Norfolk Directory.

At present 3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year. We offer funding for free childcare to parent/carers over three claim periods each academic year.

For each claim period there is a maximum number of hours available.

Funding must be claimed using the following criteria:

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

If your child takes fewer than 15 hours per week, any unused hours (up to the maximum available) may be taken as per the above criteria during holiday times in the same claim period.

Any unclaimed hours cannot be transferred to another claim period.

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

From September 2017, the Government will be extending the free childcare entitlement for working parents, to 30 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year.

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

The universal offer for all 3 and 4-year-olds will continue. Every 3 and 4-year-old will be entitled to 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year. However, the Government is going to increase this entitlement for working parents from 1 September 2017. If working parents have a 3 and 4-year-old they will be entitled to an additional 15 hours of free childcare - 30 hours total.

Free extended childcare entitlement for working parents

Deferred entry is where a parent has decided to delay their child’s admission to school. The date should be agreed with the chosen school and the child must attend school before the compulsory age. It is compulsory that a child attends school from the first term after the child’s fifth birthday.

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 you should speak to the headteacher at the school. Visit schools admissions for more information.

Your child’s future headteacher will be able to offer more detailed advice and guidance on the best path for your child’s education. You can find details of your local school in the Norfolk Schoolfinder.

Your early years provider will also be able to help you make an informed decision by giving you information about your child’s progression.

We don’t request preschools/nurseries to seek approval to continue offering early education to rising fives.  Provided the child meets the birth date criteria for the claim period, a parent/carer is able to make a choice about their childcare/early education arrangements. It is also not a requirement within the statutory guidance.