Free early education for 2 year olds

Does your family live on a low income or claim income based benefits?

Does your 2 year old have additional needs or has left care?

If yes, you may be entitled to claim up to 15 hours per week of free early education during term time or up to 11 hours per week throughout the year.

Children will be given the opportunity to experience high quality early years education with the support of a trained, high quality registered childminder, nursery or pre-school.

The aim of the programme is to enable your child to receive high quality early education that will help them to be ready for school.

1. Eligibility

2 year olds whose family receive one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • tax credits and have an annual income under £16,190 before tax
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
  • Universal Credit

2 year olds who meet any one of the following criteria are also eligible:

  • those who meet the eligibility criteria used for free school meals
  • those whose families receive Working Tax credits and have annual gross earnings of no more than £16,190 per year
  • those who have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan
  • those who are eligible for Disability Living Allowance
  • those who are looked after by their local authority
  • those who have left care through special guardianship, or through an adoption or residence order

Further information

This entitlement is available in the term after an eligible child’s 2nd birthday. 

You should be able to keep your child at your preferred provider until they can access a school place, normally in the September after their 3rd birthday.

Your entitlement will continue to be free regardless of whether your family’s financial circumstances change.

2. When to apply

You can apply when your child is 18 months old.

Any applications for children under 18 months old will not be processed.

Child’s second birthday

Entitled to their free place

Applications accepted

Between 1 January and 31 March  From the start of summer term in April  From January 
Between 1 April and 31 August  From the start of the autumn term in September  From April 
Between 1 September and 31 December  From the start of the spring term in January  From September 

3. How to apply

You can apply for free early education for your 2 year old via our online application form:

Register and apply

The details you provide will be used to check if your child is eligible for a free place.

This information will also be used to register your family with your local children’s centre (if you are not already registered) to ensure you are kept informed of local services that can benefit your family.

It can take a few weeks to process applications.

If your application has been successful, it will be placed into a central waiting list and you will be contacted once a placement becomes available.


Last updated: 13 October 2017
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