Free early education for 2 year olds | Oxfordshire County Council

Free early education for 2 year olds

Some 2 year olds are eligible for 15 hours free early education funding

Image of man and child playing provided by 4Children and the photographer Gary Manhine

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible for the funding one of the following financial criteria must apply:

Is your child 3 or 4?

The government will fund the cost of some early education for 3 and 4 year olds. More details on our early education page.

Economic criteria

1. You are in receipt of one of the following benefits:

2.  Your family receives Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit provided your annual household income, as assessed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, does not exceed £16,190

Non-economic criteria

3. Your child has a current statement of special educational needs or an education, health and care plan; or attracts Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

4. Two year olds currently in the care of the local authority (Looked After Children) or who have left care through special guardianship or an adoption or residence order.

How to apply

You can check your eligibility for the funding by using the Oxfordshire County Council Citizen Portal

To check your eligibility under the economic criteria (1, 2) you will need your national insurance number. The citizen portal will provide an immediate outcome for those families applying under these criteria.

To check if you are eligible under the non-economic criteria (3, 4) you will need to supply evidence that supports your application. We may request further evidence to verify your eligibility.

If you are entitled to the funding, you will receive a Two Year Old Funding Voucher which you must then show to the provider when arranging your child’s early education place. Once providers have seen evidence of eligibility, they will need to call the funding team at Oxfordshire County Council to confirm your child’s place at their provision and will need to quote the reference number contained within your voucher.

The provider will also require you to sign a parental agreement every term and will need to see proof of the child’s age (child’s birth certificate) and your address.

Who can help me to apply?

If you need help in completing the online application please talk to your health visitor, local early years provider (nursery, childminder, pre-school) or the Family Information Service who can check your eligibility for you.

When can my child start?

Eligible children are able to start the term after their second birthday.

Born between: Can start from: When can I apply?
1 January to 31 March (inclusive) The start of the summer funding period (April) following their 2nd birthday, until they access Free Entitlement 3 and 4 year olds (i.e. the funding period following their third birthday) January
1 April to 31 August (inclusive) The start of the autumn funding period (September) following their 2nd birthday, until they access  Free Entitlement 3 and 4 year olds (i.e. the funding period following their third birthday) April
1 September to 31 December (inclusive) The start of the spring funded period (January) following their 2nd birthday, until they access  Free Entitlement 3 and 4 year olds (i.e. the funding period following their third birthday) September

The two year old funding voucher will tell you the earliest date that your child can start their free place (should the childcare provider have a place available). We are unable to backdate funding prior to the date on the funding voucher.

What are the benefits to my child and family?

The funding gives your child up to 15 hours a week of playing, painting, reading, cooking, climbing, singing, dancing, dressing up, running around, building, gardening ... whatever they like doing. But most of all, your child is learning with other children. That's also 15 hours a week for you: - to have a break, get things done at home, study, or to return or look for work.

Free early education can be taken at approved childcare providers (including childminders, day nurseries and preschools). Children will access good quality early years education, regardless of which type of setting they attend, although there's no guarantee of getting a place with a particular provider. Use the search facility below to find approved providers near you.

Finding a place

Not all providers are registered or eligible to take funded two year olds. To find an approved childcare provider in your area use the search box below or contact the Family Information Service.

Search for providers

Enter a postcode or the name of the place where you live:

Enter a postcode or place name:


If you've been unable to source a childcare place, the Family Information Service should be able to help. 

Common questions and answers

Will there be any additional costs?

Your 15 hours of early education is completely free.

  • No charge for enrolling your child
  • No deposits
  • No fees

However if you want your child to attend more than 15 hours per week you can pay for extra hours at some providers.

The free place can be taken over a lunch break if this is offered by your childcare provider. A meal may be available at an additional cost; however you should also have the choice to provide your own packed lunch.

How long does a funded two year old place last?

Until your child reaches the term after their third birthday when they become eligible for universal free nursery education for 3 and 4 year olds. We try to place children where they can move smoothly from 2 to 3 year old funding.

Does my child need to take all the hours to start with?

No, you can begin by taking a few hours each week and build up the amount of hours, to no more than 15 a week, if the childcare provider is able to accommodate. However, you will need to stick to the same number of hours each week over one term.

Can my child have a place all year round?

This depends on the provider. Some may offer you the option to 'stretch' your child's free hours over more than 38 weeks i.e. fewer hours over more weeks. Talk to your provider about this.

What if my finances change?

Once eligibility has been confirmed, your child will remain eligible for the funding until the term after they turn three, regardless of when they take up the funded place.

Do I need to print the Two Year Old Funding voucher?

The childcare provider will need to take down your reference number as this is what they use to confirm the funding with Oxfordshire County Council. If it’s easy for you to do so, you can print the voucher and give it to the childcare provider. Or, you can access the citizen portal on your mobile phone so you can show the provider the confirmation message that is sent to your citizen portal account or you can simply write down the reference number and give it to the childcare provider.

I believe that I am eligible for the funding but the Citizen Portal says that I have been unsuccessful with my application. Can I appeal this decision?

If you have recently begun claiming an eligible benefit, it sometimes takes a little while for the system to update (usually a week). Please submit your application again. Alternatively, you can call the Family Information Service who can discuss your options.

What if I move house?

If you move house within Oxfordshire contact the Family Information Service to update your details. If you move away from Oxfordshire, the funding will stop and you will need to apply to the council in the area you move to.

What happens if my child does not attend the childcare provider?

Your child's attendance will be monitored. If your child does not attend due to valid reasons, you need to notify your provider. If the attendance is irregular without any reason, you will be supported in the first instance but if the child still is not making good use of the childcare place it may be offered to someone else.

Can my child attend a childcare provider outside of Oxfordshire?

Yes. However we can only fund providers in Oxfordshire. If you would like to attend a provider outside of Oxfordshire, you will need to apply to the council within which the provider resides.

Can I split the funding between two settings?

It is generally better for a child if they attend just one setting only, particularly for very young children. However where this is not possible then you may split it if providers agree. However, schools and academies nurseries would expect a child to attend for the full 15 hours.

How many hours may my child have in one day?

Your child can attend for between 2.5 hours and 6 hours per day.

I don’t want a free early education place for my child. Can I give it to someone else?

No. The unique reference number is specific to your child and cannot be transferred.

Further help and guidance

As well as support provided through a funded place for your 2 year old, you may be interested in other support on offer for you and your family. Your local children’s centre may contact you to support you in applying for the funding. Following your application, they may contact you to let you know about other services and explain how they may be of benefit for your child or family. The Family Information Service can also let you know about other services which may be of benefit e.g. health services.

Information for providers on the scheme

Last reviewed
09 December 2016
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