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Free early learning for 3 and 4 year olds and Early Years Pupil Premium

Tags: Parents and Carers

Early learning gives the best start in life. Through learning and playing with other children in a safe structured environment, they’ll have a head start when they begin school.

What is my child entitled to?

The government gives funding to local councils to provide free 570 hours per year early earning for all three and four year olds.

Also parents that are eligible may be able to get extra funding called the Early Years Pupil Premium. This is funding that has just been newly introduced by the government this April 2015. It is given to your provider to improve your child's education. For more information on the Early Years Pupil Premium click here.

Children can start in the term following their third birthday until they are of school age.

This means:

A child born between

Is eligible from

1 September and 31 December

1 January

1 January and 31 March

1 April

1 April and 31 August

1 September

 Where can I send my child to claim their free early learning?

  • State nursery school
  • Private, voluntary or independent sector nursery
  • Nursery class in state primary school
  • Pre-school / playgroup
  • Reception class in state primary school

How many hours are free for my child?

The maximum free early learning a child, using a Lambeth provider, can have is 570 hours per year. This equates to 15 hours per week for 38 weeks per year. There will be a minimum and maximum number of free hours that a provider can offer on one day but this may vary between different providers. Depending on your provider you may be able to stretch the hours over the year.

How can my child use the free hours?

If your child attends more than the free hours per week, you will be expected to pay the difference to the provider. You are entitled to just take up the free hours at the provider of your choice if the provider has vacancies and can accommodate your child. The provider must notify you when you register, if your requirements exceed the funding limit. You should discuss with the provider how you want to take the hours to best meet your needs.

Can I use more than one childcare provider?

Your child can attend more than one provider and, as long as they both do not exceed the maximum number of free hours per term they will be funded. You will need to ensure that both providers are aware that your child is also attending elsewhere.

How do I register my child?

When your child is eligible, you should obtain a list of early year’s providers from the Families Information Service and apply directly to them for a place. Once you have decided on your provider and agreed the hours/days your child will attend, the provider will ask you to complete and return to them the Parent Declaration form.

How is the funding paid?

We will pay your provider directly for the number of hours your child attends each term. The money is paid through a grant called the Dedicated Schools Grant.

What if the group asks for extra money?

Some groups charge additional fees for extra services but they must make it clear to you what these are; you cannot be charged for the free hours.

What help can I get if I can’t afford to pay for the extra attendance?

All parents can claim Child Tax Credit and if you work more than 16 hours per week, you may be eligible to claim Working Tax Credit and the Childcare Element. Call HM Revenue and Customs 0845 300 3900 (lines open between 8am - 8pm 7 days per week) for advice.

 What happens when my child starts in Reception class?

When your child starts in Reception their free early learning will happen in the school and they are no longer entitled to funding at another provider.

Can I use a provider in another borough?

Your child can attend providers in another borough but it will be funded by the Local Authority where the setting is registered.


Where to get further information

To view detailed information about free early learning brochure click here

For a paper copy of the brochure, please contact the Families Information Service (FIS) on 020 7926 9558 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it