15-30 Hours of Free Childcare for 2, 3 & 4-Year-Olds (A Rough Guide)

Parents are wise to research & choose the best setting for their childChildren living in England are very fortunate to have their early years childcare supported financially by a variety of Government funding schemes. The 3 most important, popular and widely-available schemes are:

  • 15 hours per week of free childcare for eligible 3 & 4-year-olds;
  • 30 hours per week of free childcare for eligible 3 & 4-year-olds;
  • 15 hours per week of free childcare for eligible 2-year-olds.

Little Acorns Nursery School supports all three schemes for families who have been successful with their funding applications.

This free childcare can really help families, especially parents who wish to return to work and those wishing to improve their standard of living. With more people working, it also benefits the economy, of course.

Perhaps most importantly, Government funding of early years childcare greatly helps children. Studies have shown that children who receive a good early years education, for example at nursery or pre-school, really do benefit. That’s in both the short term and the long term. A Department for Education study showed that children attending high quality early years education settings benefit socially, behaviourally, cognitively and, of course, educationally. Indeed it’s abundantly clear that early years education gives children a very healthy head-start so they can really hit the ground running by the time they start school around the age of 5. Many of the benefits of early years education are, as we said before, much longer-lasting, even into adulthood. Perhaps we’ll cover more detail on that in a future post. Either way, though, it’s clear that this financial support from the Government is incredibly important.

A high quality early years education has many short and long-term benefits for childrenLet’s look at each of the schemes …

Please note: in all funding cases discussed here, the Government funding is paid direct to the setting (not the family) and strict rules apply to settings in order to be eligible for the funding. Little Acorns Nursery School qualifies on all counts and welcomes families whose childcare is funded in this way.

Free Childcare for 3 to 4-Year-Olds

15 Funded Hours for Children Aged 3-4

The great news is that all children aged 3 to 4 living in England are eligible to receive a total of 570 free hours of childcare per year. Simple! And there are no tricky hoops to jump through. The 570 hours are usually taken as 15 hours per week spread over 38 weeks, although it’s sometimes possible to spread it out in a different way if the childcare setting agrees. One of the great things about this Government scheme is that it is not means tested. Whether parents are employed, self-employed or unemployed does not matter. Similar schemes are also available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, by the way.

Children using the scheme can begin at an approved childcare setting in the term that follows their third birthday. Terms usually start in early January, April or September. They can continue benefiting from the free funded hours when they become four years of age. It only ceases once they reach “compulsory school age” and begin full-time education at school in Reception year. Compulsory school age is effectively the first day of the January, April or September term following their 5th birthday (whichever falls soonest after that birthday).

30 Funded Hours for Children Aged 3-4

Eligible children aged 3-4 can benefit from 15 to 30 hours of free childcare funding each weekTaking the above scheme a step further, eligible families are able to top up the standard 15 hours per week with an additional 15 hours of free childcare in specific circumstances. In effect, this can double the child’s free childcare hours from the standard 570 hours to 1140 per annum. These are usually taken as 30 hours per week over 38 weeks although, again, some childcare settings may be able to be flexible and to spread the hours out in a different way.

Eligibility for the extra hours depends on a few factors, although they are not so restrictive that they disallow most families — far from it. The factors include things like whether the child lives with the parent who is claiming (i.e. they must), whether the parent/their partner is working (they should be) and whether they are earning the equivalent of at least 16 hours per week at the National Living (or Minimum) Wage, while at the same time not earning above £100k in the current tax year. These are just a few examples of the eligibility criteria and it’s surprisingly easy, for many, to qualify for the extra funded hours. Check if you’re eligible for 30 hours of free childcare for 3-4-year-olds here.

Free Childcare for 2-Year-Olds

15 Funded Hours for 2-Year-Olds

Eligible children aged 2 can benefit from 15 hours of free childcare funding each weekUnder certain circumstances, children aged just two can have some of their childcare funded by the Government too. However, it’s much more restrictive for this age group. If successful, though, the Government will fund up to 570 hours of childcare for a two-year-old over the course of a year — that’s significant and could really help mothers or stay-at-home fathers get back to work sooner. As with the 3 & 4-year-olds, the 570 hours is usually taken as 15 hours per week over the course of 38 weeks, but some parents may wish to ask their childcare provider if it’s possible to spread it out in a different way.

The funding is available for eligible children to begin their childcare in the term after they reach the age of two. In other words, their birth date governs whether they will start in the January, April or September term.

In order to qualify for the 570 funded childcare hours, the two-year-old must fall into an ‘additional needs’ category, or their parent(s) must be receiving one or more qualifying benefits from the Government. Check your eligibility for free childcare funding for 2-year-olds here.

Apply For Free, Funded Childcare Hours Here

After checking eligibility for any of these childcare funding schemes, you simply need to contact your local authority to apply.

Apply for an Outstanding, Award-Winning Chorley Nursery

An outstanding childcare providerLittle Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, ChorleyIf you live or work in the Chorley or Clayton area of Central Lancashire, Little Acorns Nursery School would be a natural first choice for your weekday childcare. Ofsted rate the nursery as outstanding and the setting was the outright winner of a major National nursery award. High quality childcare doesn’t get any better than this, so please do consider us for childcare of if you have a baby and child aged up to five and want to give them the very best start. The nursery and pre-school is in Clayton-le-Woods, close to Clayton Green, Clayton Brook and Chorley. It is also a Forest School setting, so children get to enjoy and learn from everything that nature has to offer. If you are looking for childcare excellence in a warm, inviting and nurturing environment, please get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you …