All three and four-year-old children can currently receive up to 15 hours free early education per week over 38 weeks of the year (570 hours per year). This entitlement can also be “stretched” at some childcare providers, which means that fewer hours can be taken over more weeks of the year, commonly offered as 11 hours per week each week of the year (universal entitlement).
From September 2017, three and four-year-olds of working parents in England will be entitled to an additional 570 hours per year, meaning these families will be able to claim up to 1,140 hours of free early education and childcare per year.
You may have heard this being talked about as “30 hours free childcare”. Three and four-year-olds in eligible working families will get an additional 15 hours free childcare, equalling 30 hours free per week over 38 weeks of the year (term-time) or approximately 22 hours per week each week of the year.
Both parents must be in work as defined below, or for single parent families, the sole parent must be at work.
- ‘In work” is defined as being in employment (including self-employed) and earning at least the equivalent of 16 hours per week at National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage (from April 2017, this is £112.80 per week for 21 to 24-year-olds and £120.00 per week for over 25-year-olds).
- Each parent must earn less than £100,000 per year.
There are some exceptions, and families will also be eligible if both parents are employed but one parent (or both parents) are:
- temporarily away from the workplace on maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave;
- temporarily away from the workplace on statutory sick pay;
- One parent is employed and one parent has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring;
- One parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated and in receipt of specific benefits.
Children already become eligible for the free early education entitlement from the funding period following their third birthday as shown below. This will be the same for the additional entitlement.
Children who turn three between:
Become eligible for their free entitlement from:
1 January to 31 March
1 April to 31 August
1 September to 31 December