Free entitlement to early education

Some 2 year olds and all 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 570 hours per year of free early education over no fewer than 38 weeks of the year. This entitlement starts from the term following their 3rd birthday until they reach compulsory school age (beginning of the term following their 5th birthday).

Free early education places are available at a range of early years childcare providers including nursery schools and classes, day nurseries, pre-schools and childminders.

There are various places a child can attend - these are often called ‘settings’ or ‘childcare providers’ and include:

  • pre-schools
  • private day nurseries
  • Local Authority (LA) nursery classes or nursery schools
  • independent schools
  • accredited childminders

Childcare providers offering the free entitlement must be registered with both the local authority and OfSTED. Contact any registered childcare provider in Bracknell Forest directly to ask about vacancies or contact the family information service.

Free early education for 2 year olds

From September 2014, the government has committed to providing free early education to the 40% (approximately) least advantaged two year olds in England. Two year olds who live in households which meet the eligibility criteria will be entitled to a free early education place. Eligible two year olds in Bracknell Forest will be able to access up to 15 hours per week (up to a maximum of 570 hours per year) of free early education at eligible, registered providers, from the school term after their 2nd birthday.

In order to qualify, parents must be in receipt of one of the following benefits:            

  • income support
  • income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • support under Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • 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)  

or one of the following must apply:

  • the child has a current statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) or an Education, Health and Care plan
  • the child gets Disability Living Allowance
  • the child is looked after by a local council
  • the child has left care under a special guardianship or an adoption or child arrangements order

When should I apply for two year old funding?

The ideal time to apply is the school term before the child’s second birthday however you can apply before or after this. We are unable to confirm eligibility before the child’s second birthday.

How do I apply for two year old funding?

To apply, you will need to complete the free early education for two year olds application form. The form asks you to include your National Insurance number and date of birth in order for us to check your eligibility with the Government's Eligibility Checking Service. We aim to check and notify applicants of their eligibility status within 5 working days.

I am eligible, what happens next?

A member of the team will contact you to discuss available early years provision and support you to secure a place for your child. Your chosen registered childcare provider will claim the funding for your child from Bracknell Forest.

I am not eligible, what happens next?

We will provide you with information on other forms of assistance and support which could be beneficial to your child.

What happens when my child turns three?

All children are entitled to free early education from the term after their 3rd birthday. A child in receipt of free early education for two year olds will automatically transfer to the free early education for three and four year olds.

How do I apply for my child’s free entitlement to early education?

Your childcare provider will ask you to complete and sign a simple parent declaration form and show your child’s birth certificate as proof of age. 

How many free entitlement hours can my child access each week?

Your child can access a maximum of 15 free entitlement hours per week. 

Childcare providers usually offer 15 free entitlement hours per week over 38 weeks per year, in line with school term dates. Some childcare providers may offer to stretch the allocation enabling your child to take up fewer free hours per week over more weeks of the year.

Whichever option is offered by your chosen childcare provider, the total number of free entitlement hours your child can access per year must come to no more than 570.

Will I have to pay anything?

If you choose to access your child’s free entitlement hours only:

  • you will not be required to make any payment for these hours
  • your childcare provider should not charge you for administration, registration fees or deposits
  • uniforms cannot be compulsory
  • parents should not be required or expected to take up additional services in order to access a free place
  • parents can choose to opt in for additional services but these must be optional and charges must be agreed in advance and be clear and transparent
  • childcare providers must not charge parents in advance and refund them when they have claimed the grant funding from the local authority

If you choose to access your child’s free entitlement as part of a larger childcare package:

  • you will have to pay the setting for any additional hours or services you take up outside of the free entitlement
  • the rates which providers charge for their privately funded hours are a matter for them to decide and should not be dictated by local authorities
  • parents should be able to clearly see that they have received their child’s full 15 hour entitlement completely free
  • your childcare provider should clearly outline any additional charges before your child starts

The free entitlement to early education has no monetary value to parents, but is a free part-time place.

When is my child eligible?

The free entitlement starts from the term following your child's 2nd (if eligible) or 3rd birthday.


A child born on or between Can receive free nursery education from
1 April and 31 August Autumn Term (September)
1 September and 31 December Spring Term (January)
1 January and 31 March Summer Term (April)


Can my child attend more than one childcare provider?

You can choose a maximum of 2 childcare providers. If your child attends more than 1 childcare provider, the free entitlement hours will be apportioned between them but cannot equal more than 15 hours.

Do I have a right to free entitlement with a particular provider?

The free entitlement does not offer a guarantee of a place at any 1 childcare provider. Childcare providers work hard to try and meet parents needs but are not always able to accommodate the times and/or days that parents want. In these circumstances the family information service can support you to find a childcare provider to meet your needs.

I am unhappy with my child’s free entitlement - what should I do?

If you have any queries about the funding or quality of care that your child receives, it is important that you always discuss these first with the provider. It is in their interest to resolve any issues that you may have. Issues concerning invoices are best dealt with by your provider as they should be able to give you a full breakdown of the amount due. It is a legal requirement that they provide parents with invoices. They must also provide you with a list of their charges, including details of charges made for any time accessed in addition to the free entitlement.

If, after speaking to your childcare provider, you still feel that your child has been unable to access their free entitlement or are concerned about the quality of care, we have a PDF file downloadcomplaints procedure (PDF, 125kb) to enable you to raise your concerns with us.

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