15 hours universal entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds
In England all 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to free childcare places of up to 15 hours per week over 38 weeks or a total of 570 hours in each 12 month period from the date the child becomes eligible. For 3 and 4 year olds, this is known as the universal entitlement or 15 hours free childcare.
Your child will continue to receive a free childcare place until they start in a reception class at a local authority maintained school or reach compulsory school age, which is the term after their fifth birthday.
Children who start in a reception class at a non maintained (independent) school are able to continue to claim the funding until they reach compulsory school age, which is the term after their fifth birthday, on the condition that this does not affect the parent’s ability to take up their child’s free place.
How do I apply for my child’s universal entitlement?
Talk to your childcare provider who will claim the funding from the Local Authority on your behalf.
Your childcare provider will ask you to complete a Parent Declaration Form and you will need to show them your child’s birth certificate or passport as proof of their age.
How many free entitlement hours can my child access each week?
The free entitlement is 570 hours in each 12 month period, starting from the term after your child’s third birthday.
These hours can be offered flexibly by childcare providers within the following limits:
- a maximum of 15 hours in a week
- no session to be longer than 10 hours
- not before 6am or after 8pm
- a maximum of 2 sites in a day
- the 570 hours can be delivered
- over a minimum of 38 weeks
- stretched over up to 52 weeks of the year
- during school holidays
- on weekends
Stretching the 570 hours across more than 38 weeks will reduce the number of free hours each week. For example:
- 38 weeks at 15 hours
- 45 weeks at 12 hours 40 minutes
- 50 weeks at 11 hours and 24 minutes
If your child attends more than one childcare provider it is possible that you will have stretched hours with one provider and standard hours with another, as long as the total hours do not exceed 570 hours in your child’s eligible funding year.