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.


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


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

For economic criteria: To check your eligibility under the economic criteria (1, 2) you will need your national insurance number.

For non-economic criteria (3, 4) you will need to supply evidence that supports your application.

What happens next?

After you apply and if you are entitled you will receive a code to take to an approved provider. You also need to take your child's birth certificate and proof of address.

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  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  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  September

The two year old funding voucher will tell you the earliest date that your child can start their funded place.

Finding a place

Not all providers are registered or eligible to take funded two year olds. Enter a postcode or place name to find providers near you.

Search for providers

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

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If you've been unable to find a childcare place, the Family Information Service may 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.

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

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.

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

No, the childcare provider simply needs to know your reference number. 

I believe that I am eligible for the funding but the system says that I have been unsuccessful. What can I do?

If you have recently begun claiming an eligible benefit, it sometimes takes a little while for the system to update. You can submit an application again but do not re-apply once you have received a code.

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

You should let the provider know of non-attendance. If attendance is irregular without any valid reason, you will be supported in the first instance but if the place is not being reasonably fully used then it may be offered to someone else.

Can my child attend a childcare provider outside Oxfordshire?

Yes. However as we can only fund providers in Oxfordshire you would need to apply to the relevant Council.

Can I split the funding between two settings?

You may split it if providers agree although it is generally better for a child if they attend just one setting.  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 have a funded place for between 2.5 hours and 6 hours per day.

Information for providers on the scheme

Last reviewed
14 November 2017
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