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Hertfordshire County Council

Whether it's nursery, pre-school or a childminder – find the best start to prepare your child for school.

  • Some 2 year olds can get 15 hours free early education, depending on your circumstances.
  • All 3 and 4 year olds can get 15 hours free early education (570 hours per year). You can use these from the term after your child turns 3.
  • Some 3 and 4 year olds can get an extra 15 hours childcare, this is known as 30 hours free childcare.
  • Use your 15 free hours with a school nurserychildminder, day nursery or pre-school. Contact them about place availability and when your child can start.

2 year olds

Your 2 year old can get 570 hours free early education a year from the term after they turn 2, if you receive one of these benefits:

  • income support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit – if you and your partner have a combined income from work of less than £15,400 a year after tax
  • tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit).


Free childcare is also available for children who:

  • are looked after by a local authority
  • have a current statement of special educational needs or an education, health and care plan
  • have left care through a special guardianship or an adoption or child arrangement order
  • get disability living allowance.

If this sounds like your circumstances, apply for free childcare for your 2 year old.

 

Once your child turns 3...

All 3 year olds can get 570 hours free early education a year from the term after they turn 3So when can you use yours?

 

3 and 4 year olds (including 30 hours free childcare)

All 3 and 4 year olds

All 3 and 4 year olds can get 570 hours free early education a year from the term after they turn 3So when can you use yours?


Legally, your child doesn’t have to start school until the term after they turn 5.


Some 3 and 4 years olds get extra...

Some 3 and 4 year olds can also get another 570 hours a year on top, depending on your circumstances.

This is called 30 hours free childcare (that's a total of 1,140 hours a year).

You can get that if:

  • you earn (or expect to earn) the equivalent of 16 hours at National Minimum or Living Wage over the coming 3 months.

    That's £120 a week (around £6,000 a year) for each parent over 25 years old.

    Or £112.80 a week (around £5,800 a year) for each parent between 21–24 years old.

    This applies whether you’re in paid employment, self-employed or on a zero hours contract.
  • one or both parents are on maternity, paternity, shared parental or adoption leave, or on statutory sick leave
  • one of you meets the income criteria above and the other is unable to work because they're disabled, have caring responsibilities or have been assessed as having limited capability to work
  • you’re in a ‘start-up period’ (i.e. newly self-employed). You don't need to demonstrate that you meet the income criteria for 12 months
  • you’re a non-EEA national. You must have 'recourse to public funds'.

When can you start using your 30 hours free childcare?

You can use your hours from the term after your child turns 3 (if you're eligible).

If you apply by 31 August, your entitlement will start from 1 September.

If you apply after 31 August, your entitlement will start from 1 January.

If you already get 30 hours free childcare, you need to reconfirm your eligibility by 31 August so your 30 hours free childcare continues.

Once you've applied, sign into your account to get your eligibility code or to reconfirm your eligibility. 

If you need help, contact the HMRC helpline on 0300 123 4097.

5 year olds


If your child is 5 or over, you need to apply for a school place.

Using your free hours

All children are entitled to 570 hours of free early education a year, once they turn 3 until they start full-time school.

Your child is born between...Your child can start...

 1 April – 31 August

On or after 1 September after their 3rd birthday

 1 September – 31 December

On or after 1 January after their 3rd birthday

 1 January – 31 March

On or after 1 April after their 3rd birthday

You can choose to take the hours at 1 provider or split them between providers.

If you want to split them, the providers will need to be registered and agree to this.

You should never have to:

  • pay for additional services to get your free hours

  • pay for any part of your child's free early education


When you are using your free hours, providers will:

  • specify when early education sessions can be taken

  • decide the price of any extra hours you want to take

  • make it clear in their admissions policy how many funded places they have.

We'll pay the provider directly for the hours. Any hours you get after this are charged at the provider's own rate.

 

Where you can use your free hours

Childminders

  • Self-employed and registered with Ofsted, they will care for your children at their home.
  • Must hold a relevant qualification.
  • They deliver the early years foundation stage.
  • Must be registered on the scheme to offer free early education to 2, 3 and 4 year olds.
  • Ask your childminder about any specialist services they offer.

Childcare directory - find a local childminder

Day nurseries

  • Registered and inspected by Ofsted.
  • The manager or leader will hold a relevant qualification.
  • They deliver the early years foundation stage.
  • Must be registered on the scheme to offer free early education to 2, 3 and 4 year olds.
  • Open throughout the year, usually offering either full or half day sessions.

Childcare directory - find a local day nursery

Nursery schools and classes (maintained)

  • Schools run by the Local Authority, inspected by Ofsted.
  • Visit the nursery website for information on how to apply, admission rules and what provision is available.
  • Maintained nursery schools offer free early education to 3 and 4 year olds.
  • Some will offer free early education to eligible younger children from the age of 2.

Find your local nursery school or class

Pre-schools and playgroups

  • Registered with Ofsted and deliver the early years foundation stage.
  • The manager or leader will hold a relevant qualification.
  • Must be registered on the scheme to offer free early education to 2, 3 and 4 year olds.
  • Normally only open during school term time only and tend to cater for 2-4 year old children.
  • Pre-schools can also be called playgroups, nurseries or kindergartens.

Childcare directory - find a local pre-school or playgroup

Out of school care – after school, breakfast and holiday clubs

  • Registered with Ofsted and inspected by them.
  • They provide care for children aged 4 - 11.
  • The manager or leader will hold a relevant qualification.
  • The majority of out of school clubs will provide a light meal or snack during the session.
  • Clubs will offer a range of activities for children.

Childcare directory - find local out of school care

Childcare for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

  • All providers are expected to comply with the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) code of practice and follow the requirements of the early years foundation stage.
  • All childcare providers must have an inclusion policy in place. 
  • We offer childcare providers support and training to help them meet children's needs.
  • Local offer is our source of information about support, services and activities for children with SEND.
  • We have a SEND information and advice service that offers personalised confidential support to help you make informed decisions about your child's education.

Map of nurseries and early years providers

 

3 tips when you're looking for childcare

  1. We always recommend visiting the childcare provider, to see how the staff interact with children.
  2. Ask the provider for an Ofsted report, if it's available. Ofsted inspects providers regularly to make sure every staff member is suitable to work with children.
  3. When you visit, you may want to ask about:
  • settling in periods
  • daily routine
  • fee payment arrangements
  • staff turnover
  • supporting children with additional needs
  • communication between parents and staff
  • contents of any contract that's been signed.

If you have any queries email us at Childcare@hertfordshire.gov.uk