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Free early education for 3 - 4 year olds

Early Education Fund for 3 and 4 year olds - universal entitlement (15 hours) and (30 hours).

All 3 to 4-year-olds in Oxfordshire are eligible for the universal 570 hours free early education. (Universal) There is no need to apply for a code.

Working parents may also be eligible for the extended 570 hours for 3 and 4-year-old children. (Extended or '30 hours') Information, eligibility criteria and links to apply can be found at Childcare Choices.

Is your child two?

If your child is two you may qualify for 15 hours of free early education. More details on our early education for two-year-olds page.

When is my child eligible?

From the term following their 3rd birthday.

Date of 3rd birthday Government-funded pre-school entitlement starts from
1 April - 31 August Term 1 - September
1 September - 31 December Term 2 - January
1 January - 31 March Term 3 - April

Is the entitlement all year?

Providers typically offer funded hours for 38 weeks (term time).  Funded hours can, however, be stretched across the year, depending on the provider. 

Eligibility for the 30 hours of free childcare

  • Information, eligibility criteria and links to apply can be found at Childcare Choices  

Parents need to get their code (or reconfirm eligibility) before the start of the next term ie before 31 August, 31 December and 31 March. It is recommended that parents do this by July, November and February.

Do all childcare providers offer funded places?

Providers can decide if they want to be a funded provider and if they wish to offer 15 or 30 or in between.

How do I apply for a free place?

Parents should contact their preferred provider directly. This includes applying for a school nursery place.

Find childcare near you

Your questions answered

Will I have to pay towards my child's place?

No. You do not have to pay towards the basic free entitlement.

For non-school /academy settings there may be additional charges not related to the free entitlement.

What about a deposit/registration fee?

You can be asked for a deposit or registration fee if you are taking up any place that is not part of the free entitlement.

What about paying for lunch?

You can't be asked to purchase a lunch - you should be able to give your child a packed lunch or snacks. If you do want to buy a lunch you should agree the cost of this in advance.

What about extra hours?

You do not have to purchase additional hours in order to get the free hours. The rates that settings charge for additional hours or services is between the parent and provider. You should receive a statement clearly stating what hours are funded and what hours you are paying for.

How many hours can my child have in one day?

Your child can have a maximum of 10 hours free in any one day.

Can I split the funding between two settings?

For the 15 hours it is generally better for a child if they attend just one setting only. 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.

For 30 hours some families might find splitting the entitlement suits them well and you can do this as long as the child is at no more than two sites in one day. So you could have a term time only place for fewer than 30 hours a week and use the remainder to cover a holiday club. Or you might want to keep your child with a valued childminder but start to access some of the free entitlement at a school nursery so that they get to know children they may soon be starting school with.

My childcare provider has a limited number of 30 hour funded places. Can they do this?

Yes providers are not obliged to offer the full 30 hours.  You can use any hours above what is being offered at another childcare provider.

I only want to use 20 hours of my funding a week but my local school only offers 15 or 30-hour places. Can I insist that my child only attends for 20 hours?

Schools can decide on a set offer. This should be made clear in offer letters and on their website. Parents cannot insist on a certain pattern of hours.

If my child attends a school nursery or class will they automatically have a place at the school?

No. Admission for a school place is made separately. Parents should apply for a school place for starting school in reception via the admissions procedure.

I am a foster carer. Can I use 30 hours funding?

You will be eligible for your children in foster care if it is consistent with the child’s care plan and you and your partner (if any) are working outside your fostering role. You should start by discussing this with your social worker.

Is there any extra funding?