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Hertfordshire County Council

Giving your child the best start in life, helping their development and preparing them for school.

Let us know your child’s date of birth and we’ll see what you can get.

Can I get free early education and childcare?

All 3 and 4 year olds can get 15 hours free early education (570 hours per year). This can be used with a school, childminder, day nursery, pre-school.

In some cases, 3 and 4 year olds can get an extra 15 hours childcare (570 hours a year). This will depend on your circumstances.

Some 2 year olds can get 15 hours free early education, depending on your circumstances.

30 hours free childcare

Apply or sign in to the childcare service as a parent

  1. Firstly, you'll be asked to confirm your identity.
  2. Then you need to complete the application.
  3. You'll get your child's eligibility code for 30 hours free childcare. You can also pay money for tax-free childcare into your childcare account.
  4. Give your 30 hours free childcare eligibility code to your childcare provider.
  5. Your childcare provider will contact the Local Authority to check the eligibility code.
  6. Every 3 months you'll reconfirm your eligibility through the childcare service.


Using your free hours

You can choose to take the hours at one 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
  • Pay a deposit, registration or administration fee to use your free hours.

 

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

You can find a provider by using our childcare directory or visiting your local children's centres.

We always recommend visiting the childcare provider, if possible, to see how the staff interact with children.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Maintained nursery schools and classes

  • Schools run by the Local Authority, inspected by Ofsted.
  • Check with your nursery school to see if they offer any special services, for example, holiday clubs outside of term time.
  • 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.

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 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.