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Funded early learning for three to four year olds

Funded early years education is available from the term after your child turns three and finishes at the end of the term when your child turns five. All three and four year olds are entitled to 15 hours a week of funded early years education for up to 38 weeks of the year and some working families may also be entitled to an additional 15 hours of funded early years education called the extended entitlement. 

  • If your child's birthday falls between 1st January and 31st March, they are eligible in the summer term after their third birthday.
  • If your child's birthday falls between 1st April and 31st August, they are eligible in the autumn term after their third birthday.
  • If your child's birthday falls between 1st September and 31st December, they are eligible in the spring term after their third birthday.
  • If you’re already a using childcare provider, please check to see if they offer funded early years education places.
  • Discuss and agree with them how you want to divide your 15 hours over the week and what they can offer you.
  • Sign a contract with the provider to confirm your child will be attending by the start of the term after your child turns three.

If you move to a new provider halfway through a term, you will have to pay for your child's place until the next term starts.

Have a look at our childcare directory to see all the providers offering three and four year old places in your area.

Funded places are available at early year's childcare providers such as:

  • Council-run nursery schools
  • Nurseries attached to primary schools
  • Day nurseries
  • Pre-school playgroups
  • Childminders

You can contact these providers directly to check if they have funded places available or contact the for local provider's contact details.

Childcare providers usually allow children to start in January, April and September. They are likely to be flexible about how you divide your child’s funded 15 hours across the week. You may be able to leave your child for up to seven and half hours a day, spread over a fewer number of days per week.

Some working parents and carers of 3 and 4 year olds may be eligible for an additional 15 hours funded childcare on top of the existing free 15 hours early education entitlement. If they meet certain criteria, this is called the extended entitlement.

If you quality, you will receive a code to take to your chosen provider. 

Watch this helpful video and then click the orange button below to apply:

Watch to find out how various families have benefited from taking up the extended entitlement of 30 hours funded childcare per week:

Here are some suggestions as to how the 15 hours a week of funded early years education plus the extended entitlement could work for you:

  • 22 funded hours each week spread over the whole year, 52 weeks.
  • 24 funded hours each week spread over 48 weeks a year and you have your children at home when you have your annual leave or holiday entitlement.
  • 30 funded hours each week spread over 38 weeks which covers term time only.

We recommend you speak with your childcare provider as early as possible to discuss how you would like to take these extra hours.

We have updated our forms for foster carers to apply for the 30 hours funded childcare, please take a look at the Information sheet for Social Workers and Foster Parents  which explains the criteria and process for foster carers in paid employment, additional to their fostering duties, that would like to apply for 30 hours funded childcare for any 3&4 year old children they are fostering.

The Initial Application Form needs to be completed by the foster parent for new children and counter signed by the child’s social worker so eligibility can be checked by the Childcare and Families Information Team (CFIT) before a voucher code is issued. Once a voucher code has been issued the foster carer will then need to complete the Re-validation form  and get this counter signed by the child’s social worker every 3 months to continue receiving the fostered child’s 30 hours funded childcare.

Your child's place using the funded early years education and the extended entitlement is free however other small costs could be:

  • Your child's lunch.
  • A registration or administration fee.
  • Extra hours due to the pattern of attendance.

We recommend that these extras are confirmed in writing before you take up your child's place. Some providers may let you bring a packed lunch if the cost of their lunch is a barrier to you taking a place.

Always speak to your provider first to explain the charges they are making. If you’re still worried, contact the Families Information Service with the following information:

  • What you agreed with the provider in your contract.
  • What you are being charged – the team may need to see a copy of an invoice.
  • How many hours a week your child spends with that provider.

Legally, the term after your child turns five; they should be in full-time education. In Derby, schools generally take in children in September. The funded early years education places can be paid up until the term your child turns five. Once your child starts school they will stop being able to take up any funded early years education places.