Some of you may not be aware that your child, if aged over three years old, can access 15 hours of childcare completely free.

There are various rules that childcare settings have to follow to access this funding but it is useful for parent’s to understand their rights to access this.


The government have recently updated their code of practice and subsequently issued the “Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on the Delivery of Free Early Education for Three and Four Year Olds and Securing Sufficient Childcare” (updated KCC 30th July 2012) for implementation from 1st September 2012. This document will replace the previous Code of Practice for Local Authorities on Delivery of  Free Early Years Provision for Three and Four Year Olds (2010).

Key points for parents on the new guidance

*    All three and four year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free nursery education for 38 weeks of the year. This applies until they reach compulsory school age (the term following their fifth birthday). Free early education places are available at a range of registered early years settings including nursery schools and classes, children’s centres, day nurseries, play groups and pre-schools and child minders.

*   The code has a more flexible approach to the free entitlement which can be taken between 7am and 7pm instead of 8am and 6pm, and spread across a minimum of two days instead of the current three days

*   This entitlement does not guarantee your child a space at any particular chosen setting, only the level of entitlement is guaranteed.

*   Settings should not be charging a top up fee. The guidance states ‘Under no circumstances should the provider levy any fee in respect of the Free Early Years Education nor should parents/carers be charged in advance to be refunded at a later date.’ (KCC 2012)

*   Parents/carers may access as little or as much of the Free Entitlement as they wish, and may take up the entitlement at a maximum of two providers meaning they can share the funding between two settings.

*   The Free Entitlement is for up to 15 hours per week over a minimum of two days, of not less than 2.5 hours per day and not more than 10 hours per day (between 7am-7pm) over a period of 38 weeks per year, being offered in the school term times only.

When your child qualifies for a free place:

If your child is born between: They are eligible for a free place from:
1st April – 31stAugust 1 September following their third birthday or the beginning of the autumn* school term
1 September and 31 December 1 January following their third birthday or the beginning of the spring* school term
1 January and 31 March 1 April following their third birthday or the beginning of the summer* school term
  • Based on a three-term school year

Nurseries have to follow certain procedures to get access to this funding on your behalf.

What happens next?

  • The setting will write to you automatically the term before your child  becomes eligible asking you to state how many hours you wish to claim and ask for a copy of your child’s birth certificate.
  • Your chosen nursery will collate all the information together and submit it to KCC by the deadline they set.
  • When the term begins (your setting will give you a set of term dates) there will be a headcount week, this is usually the second or third week back after the start of term. This is when all the children are counted to verify that they actually attend what has been sent in the previous term. (Your setting will give you notification of the headcount week dates)
  • The setting will then submit this final information to KCC by their deadline and they will release the funding for each child.
  • Your invoice should reflect the free entitlement of 15 hours per week.

This process has to happen each term for every eligible child, though you will not need to submit your child’s birth certificate after the first time, you will be asked to request the amount of funded hours you require each term.

Previously, parents could claim half way through a term, this has now changed and you can only claim at your chosen setting/s in one term. E.g. If you decide to move settings half way through a term, you will not be able to take the funding with you, therefore you will have to pay for the 15 hours at the new setting and wait until the start of the next term before you can claim at the new setting.

Parents wanting more information about this can contact the local authority:

Kent Children and Families Information Service CFIS

Helpline: 08000 32 32 30


Web site:



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