Free early education for two year olds

Free early education for two year olds

If you're the parent or carer of a two year old and you receive certain benefits you could be eligible to apply for a free early education place

Apply

The quickest way to apply is online. You'll need a parent or carer’s National Insurance number.

Apply for your place online

Other ways to apply
Contact your local Children's Centre, who can help you apply.

Who can apply?

Your 2-year-old can get free 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, and your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, not including benefit payments
  • child tax credits, and your household income is £16,190 a year or less before tax
  • the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

2-year-olds can also get free childcare if they:

  • are looked after by a local authority
  • have a statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • get Disability Living Allowance
  • have left care under an adoption order, special guardianship order or a child arrangements order
  • have a child protection plan
  • are a member of a travelling family

You may have to pay for extra costs like meals, nappies or trips.

If you’re a non-EEA citizen who cannot claim benefits

Your 2-year-old may get free childcare if you are getting support under the Immigration and Asylum Act and have either:

  • claimed asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision (known as ‘part 6’)
  • been refused asylum in the UK (known as ‘section 4’)

A 2-year-old you care for may also get free childcare if your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, and you have any of the following:

  • leave to remain with ‘no recourse to public funds’ on family or private life grounds
  • support from your local council because you have ‘a child in need’, for example they have a disability or a child protection plan
  • the right to live in the UK because you’re the main carer of a British citizen (known as a ‘Zambrano Carer’)

What you will get

Your child will receive 570 hours free early education over a year.  This is equal to 15 hours a week during term time (38 weeks a year) or 12 hours a week all year round (47.5 weeks a year).

There is some flexibility with how the hours are used, but they can only be used for a maximum of 10 hours a day.

Your child can start in their free place from the term after their second birthday.  

If your child's second birthday is between:

  • 1 April and 31 August  they can start the following 1 September
  • 1 September and 31 December they can start the following 1 January
  • 1 January and 31 March they can start the following 1 April

Funding is available for a range of early years providers, including Children's Centres, nurseries, pre-schools, playgroups and childminders.

Benefits of early years education

Research has shown that good quality early education can improve childrens' social and emotional development, as well as their language and communication skills.  The children also get to have fun and make lots of friends, through a wide range of experiences.