Early years

There is a wealth of choice of places for pre-school children locally, whether you're looking for a childminder, a nursery or a primary school with a nursery attached. Use our family information services directory to find out more:

Family information services directory - search for local nurseries, childminders and other providers

Family information service

Nursery and primary schools (with nursery places)

Children’s centres

Early Years Foundation Stage

Apply for a nursery school place

Help with childcare costs

Free offer for three and four-year-olds

Three and four-year-olds are guaranteed free places at registered centres whatever your circumstances or income. You could get £678.30​ per term if your child attends 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year.

The amount of funding will be apportioned for those providers that are open between 33-37 weeks.

Free care for two-year-olds

Is your family living on a low income or claiming income-based benefits? Does your two-year-old have additional needs or has he or she left care? You may be entitled to claim 15 hours free care a week during term time or 11 hours per week throughout the year.

Watch our video about free early education and childcare for two-year-olds.

To be eligible, you must be receiving one of the following benefits:

  • an income-based benefit
  • Working Tax Credits or Child Tax Credits and have annual gross earnings of no more than £16,190.

Or you must have a child who meets one of the criteria below:

  • has a current special educational needs statement or an education, health and care plan
  • receives Disability Living Allowance
  • is looked after by the local authority
  • has left care through special guardianship or an adoption or residence order

Your free place is available in the term after an eligible child’s second birthday. You should be able to keep your child at your preferred provider until they get a school place, normally in the September after their third birthday. Your entitlement will continue to be free regardless of whether your family’s financial circumstances change.

We can’t accept applications for children under 20 months old.

Dates for eligibility

Child’s second birthday falls between They will be entitled to their free place from You can contact us
1 January and 31 March 2016 The start of the Summer term in April 2016 From January 2016
1 April and 31 August 2016 The start of the Autumn term in September 2016

From April 2016

1 September and 31 December 2016 The start of the Spring term in January 2017 From September 2016

How do I apply?

To apply you must register with and submit an application via the online system. You can access the registration form by clicking on the apply now button below.

Apply now

With this information we will check if your child is eligible for a free part-time place and we will respond to you within 3 weeks of making your application

If you are unable to apply online, you can request a paper application by calling the Family Information Service on 0845 313 3933 who can send one out to you.


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