Introduction to funded early learning
All three and four year olds are entitled to 15 hours a week of funded early years education for 38 weeks of the year. Here, we explain how you work out when your child qualifies for a funded place, where your child can learn and how you go about securing your child's place.
Some working parents and carers of three and four year olds in Derby, may be eligible for up to a further 15 hours funded childcare, in addition to the existing funded 15 hours early education entitlement, if they meet certain criteria. This is called the Extended Entitlement.
When does my child qualify for a funded place?
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.
Where and when can my child take up a place for free?
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
Have a look at our childcare directory to see all the providers offering three and four year old places in your area.
If you still cannot find a suitable provider, please contact the Families Information Service.
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.
How do I get a funded place for my child?
- 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.
Where can I find a childcare provider?
It’s always a good idea to start looking early. You can search our childcare directory at anytime. There’s no reason you can’t apply in advance of your child’s third birthday, though applying early isn’t a guarantee that you will get a place.
Sometimes it is difficult to find appropriate childcare due to your families needs. If that is the case, we can help you so get in touch.
What if I need more than 15 hours of childcare a 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 are eligible, you will receive a code to take to your preferred provider.
How will the extended entitlement work?
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.
How do I check if I am eligible?
Please check your eligibility at the government's webpage Childcare Choices website. It outlines a range of funding options which you may be entitled to.
Please be aware of the following deadlines to apply or reaffirm for your HMRC eligibility code:
- If your child's birthday falls between 1st January and 31st March, you must apply for your code before 31st March.
- If your child's birthday falls between 1st April and 31st August, you must apply for your code before 31st August.
- If your child's birthday falls between 1st September and 31st December, you must apply for your code before 31st December.
Are these funded places totally free?
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.
What should I do if I think I’m being charged for my funded 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.
Why do the funded places stop at the age of five?
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. For more information, speak to our School Admissions Team.
Once your child starts school they will stop being able to take up any funded early years education places.
Other childcare options
If you want more than 15 hours of childcare a week and are not eligible for the extended entitlement then you’ll have to pay for the extra hours. Talk to your childcare provider to check how and what they would charge for the extra hours.
You can also visit the government's Childcare Choices website which outlines a range of funding options you may be entitled to. It has a childcare calculator to give you an estimate of how much help you could get with childcare costs. Parents and carers can sign up for updates and notifications on tax free childcare as well as other government childcare cost schemes.
For help with completing an application, or if parents and carers do not have internet access please call the Childcare Services Customer Interaction Centre on 0300 123 4097. You will be able to apply over the phone directly to HMRC. Please be aware that parents and carers will need to reconfirm their eligibility every three months.