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Supporting the whole community

For 3-year-olds

Three and four-year-old children can receive 15 hours of free early education per week, 38 weeks per year.


Free places are offered as:

  • three hours per day over five days
  • five hours per day over three days
  • 15 hours spread over a week.

Or the hours can be stretched out to meet your needs.

When your child can start

Usually, children start early education in the term after their third birthday.

​Birthday between

Education starts​

​1 April and 31 August ​Term 1 September (autumn)
​1 September and 31 December ​Term 2 January (spring)
​1 January and 31 March ​Term 3 April (summer)


Where your child can get free early education

Free early education and childcare can be at:

All childcare providers must be registered with Ofsted. You can choose a provider from either:

When to register your child for a place

Places are not given on a ‘first-come, first-served basis, so registering early does not mean you will definitely get a place. However, you should register your child by the term before they are due to start.
If you recently moved into the borough, register your child as soon as possible.

How to register your child for a place

To register with a nursery school you need to make an appointment to see the headteacher as soon as you can. You will have to take documents with you to the appointment.

To register for an early education place with an Ofsted childcare provider, academy, free school, or childminder, you will also need to make an appointment. Contact the organisation directly to find out what documents you need to take to the appointment with you.

Extra funding for your childcare provider

Early years pupil premium funding could help your child’s early education provider to offer learning experiences and activities which will prepare your child for starting school.

Your child could benefit from extra resources and equipment to meet their needs.

Who qualifies

Your childcare provider (nursery, childminder, or school) may be entitled to claim funding for your child if you receive one of the following benefits:

  • income support
  • income-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Child Tax Credit (providing you are not also entitled to working tax credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on, paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • the guaranteed part of State Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit.

To check your eligibility against the criteria, use our online checker.

Children qualify in their own right if:

  • we have looked after them for at last one day
  • they have been adopted from care
  • they have left care through special guardianship
  • they are subject to a child arrangement order.

If you think the child qualifies under any of the criteria, email or call 020 3373 0980.