Free early years entitlement

What is free early years entitlement?

All three and four year old children are entitled to 15 hours of free Early Years (EY) entitlement per week, across 38 weeks of the year.

You can choose to take this free EY entitlement at any of the following registered ‘providers’:

  • Pre-school playgroup
  • Private day nursery
  • Childminder (who belongs to a registered childminder network)
  • Maintained nursery school
  • Nursery or reception class in a primary or independent school.  

When can your child access a free place?

Children will receive the free provision from the term after their third birthday as follows:

A child born on or between

can access a free place from

1 April and 31 August

the beginning of the Autumn term

1 September and 31 December

the beginning of the Spring term

1 January and 31 March

the beginning of the Summer term

How can the free EY entitlement be taken?

The free EY entitlement can be taken flexibly within the following limits:

  • The full 15 hours have to be taken over at least two days per week and a maximum of five days per week
  • A minimum of 2.5 hours can be taken in one day
  • A maximum of 10 hours can be taken in one day.

Spliting between different providers

You can take the free EY entitlement at up to two providers. The basic offer is three hours over five days a week, or five hours over three days a week, but many providers will allow you to take the provision flexibly, in a pattern that meets your needs.

For example, your child could have nine hours at a nursery or reception class and six hours with a playgroup, day nursery, childminder or independent school over the course of 3 days or more.

How do I claim the free EY entitlement?

  • You must let your provider know that you would like to claim the free EY entitlement and how many hours you would like to claim each week.
  • Your provider will give you a ‘Free Early Years Entitlement Declaration Form’ for you to fill in, and they will claim funding on your behalf from the local authority for the Free EY Entitlement.
  • Each term, providers have a deadline for claiming this funding. The local authority may not be able to fund a child who has not taken up a free EY entitlement place by this date.
  • You will need to specify at which provider(s) you would like your child to take their free EY entitlement place and how many hours you would like to claim at each provider.
  • Funding is for a minimum of half a term; if your child moves to another provider during a term then you need to inform the new provider as soon as possible, to see if a free EY entitlement place is available.
  • Please note that if your child attends a part-time place in a school nursery, reception class or nursery class, then the hours attended will be counted as part of your child’s free EY entitlement.

Your provider will be able to give you more details on how to claim your free EY entitlement place.

Additional charges

Some providers may charge for meals, snacks or optional extras as these may not always be included within the free entitlement. If you take more than 15 hours per week or more than 38 weeks per year there will be a charge from the provider for these additional hours. Please check with your provider for full details of any additional charges.

Choosing a provider

All registered providers deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum and are inspected by Ofsted for the quality of their early years provision. These reports are available for you to read either from the provider, at a library or on the internet (www.ofsted.gov.uk).

To access a childminder’s report you will need to obtain their Ofsted unique reference number. Some providers may also have achieved or be working towards a quality assurance award such as the City of York Council’s ‘Steps to Quality’ scheme, or the National Childminding Association’s ‘Children Come First’ network. Speak to the provider for further information on this.

More information

For more information about the free EY entitlement or about providers in the York area, please contact the Family Information Service.

Useful documents


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