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Free early learning places for 2 year olds

Children of eligible parents are able to access up to 15 hours of free early educationfor up to 15 hours per week. If eligible, your child could get up to 15 hours a week of free early learning and childcare in a participating day nursery, pre-school or with a childminder.

 On this page you will find further guidance under the following sections:

The benefits of an Early Education for your child

  • Early Education gives children the chance to learn, play and make new friends.       
  • Early Education gives children some preparation for starting school. 
  • You can arrange childcare to fit around your personal needs.

Is my child eligible?

Your 2-year-old can get free early education and childcare if you live in England and get one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit - if you and your partner are on a low income from work (this usually means a combined income 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)

A child can also get free early education and childcare if any of the following apply:

  • they’re looked after by a local council
  • they have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • they get Disability Living Allowance
  • they’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order

The following dates show when your child is eligible for Free Early Education Entitlement and Free Childcare. 

A child born on or between …

Will become eligible for a free place from …

1 April and 31 August

1 September following their 2nd birthday

1 September and 31 December

1 January following their 2nd birthday

1 January and 31 March

1 April following their 2nd birthday

How do I apply?

If you believe you meet the eligibility criteria above you can apply for your child’s free early learning place on the online Redbridge Parent Portal at  You will need to provide a variety of information including your National Insurance number and you and your child's details on the system.

If you are eligible you will be sent an email confirming you are entitled to a place. You will need to provide this to your chosen provider at the earliest opportunity.

The provider will ask you to complete a Parent Declaration Form which will confirm that your child will be attending the setting. This will need to be completed before your child accesses their place and will need to be updated by you and the setting each term. This will show the number of free early education hours are being offered each term. This information must be provided on the form before you are asked to sign - if it isn't please ask the provider to confirm these details first.

Complaints process

If you are having difficulty in finding or accessing a place, or if you have concerns that your child's place is not meeting the requirements, please contact Families Information Direct (FiND) in the first instance.

sFinding a childcare setting

You can find a full list of participating childcare settings here. If you would like further support in finding a suitable provider please contact FiND.

Will I have to pay anything?

The offer of a free early education and childcare place must be offered ‘free at the point of delivery’. This means that if your child is only receiving the free hours without any additional paid hours or services then you will not be expected to make any payment to the provider in order to access your child’s place.

If you wish to access more than the maximum hours per week or additional services please see the section ‘Accessing more than the maximum hours per week or additional services’.

What your child’s place will offer

The free early learning place can provide up to 15 hours a week of free early education and is usually offered over 38 weeks per year.

Some settings are open for 3 hours per day and will offer a place across either 5 mornings or 5 afternoons a week.

In settings open for more than 3 hours per day it may also be possible to take the full entitlement over 2, 3 or 4 days. Your child must access no more than 10 hours in any one day and this can be provided between 7.00am and 7.00pm.

If the setting is open all year round (51 weeks per year) they may be able to provide you with a ‘stretched offer’. This means you access fewer hours each week but for 51 weeks of the year.

Whether you wish to access just the free early learning place or if you choose to access additional hours or services, the provider’s offer to you should always be clear and transparent. Where you are accessing any unfunded hours or additional services you should ensure this is clearly explained by your provider and a contract is put in place that clearly states the agreement. You should ask to see this before committing to a childcare place. If you are in any doubt, ask questions before agreeing to a place.

Accessing more than the maximum hours per week or additional services

If you work or have other commitments that mean your child needs to attend a setting for more than 15 hours per week (or 570 hours per year) then you have the option to pay for additional hours. Private day nurseries and childminders usually offer full day care and usually for 51 weeks of the year. They may be able to offer you greater flexibility but as these are privately run businesses you should check the cost for unfunded hours or additional services.

Additional services can include a cooked lunch or additional classes such as learning an additional language. A childcare provider is entitled to charge for these services.

If you are only accessing the free early learning place then you can choose to provide a packed lunch which would not incur an additional cost, or pay the additional fee for the cooked lunch.

All childcare providers should have a clear and concise charging policy so that there is no misunderstanding of any costs. The arrangements for payment are a private matter between providers and parents.

How a childcare setting makes a claim for providing free early education

Your childcare provider is required to make a claim. They are then reimbursed for the hours offered free to you. However as stated previously where you are solely accessing a free early learning place this should be provided ‘free at the point of delivery’ so you should not be expected to make any payment in order to access the place.

Further advice and support

For further information and support please contact Families Information Direct (FiND) 

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