The free entitlement gives all eligible children the opportunity to take part in planned learning activities, and helps prepare them for school through the early learning goals set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Below is a list of our most frequently asked questions about the free entitlement. You can find additional information in the leaflet at the bottom of this web page.
As a general rule children can get the free entitlement from the term after their third birthday until they either, start in a reception class at a local authority maintained school or reach compulsory school age, which is the school term after their fifth birthday.
Children will be able to access the entitlement from the following terms:
The free entitlement offers children up to 15 hours of free early years provision a week for 38 weeks. Childcare providers are able to claim for the following weeks each term, not including half term breaks or schools holidays:
Autumn term 2012 - 14 weeks
Spring term 2013 - 11 weeks
Summer term 2013 - 13 weeks
Autumn term 2013 - 14 weeks
You will not be able to claim the entitlement directly. Childcare providers registered on The Surrey Directory of Early Years providers will be able to claim it on your behalf. These include pre school playgroups, day nurseries, nursery units of independent schools and network accredited childminders.
Alternatively you can claim free early education through a maintained nursery school or class attached to a Local Education Authority (LEA) school. If they offer less than 15 hours you may be able to claim the balance with another childcare provider.
You can find details of Ofsted registered childcare on our childcare finder. It will say under their details if they are registered for the early years free entitlement or if they are a network accredited childminder.
Yes, you can choose to take up the free entitlement with more than one childcare provider if this suits you better. So, for example your child could have 9 hours in a pre school playgroup and 6 hours with a network accredited childminder.
Childcare providers can choose the hours that they offer the free entitlement so discuss this with them first to ensure that the time you use is free.
However you won't be able to have:
No, your childcare provider shouldn't charge you for any of this time as the entitlement is for a free place rather than a subsidy towards your fees. However they can set their own rates for any additional time or services that you take and should let you know in advance what you will be expected to pay.
You should also get an invoice at least once a term clearly showing what you are being asked to pay for. If you think that you are being charged for your child's free place or are being invoiced incorrectly you should speak to your childcare provider in the first instance. If you are still unsure then you can contact us.
No, the free entitlement does not affect any means tested benefits and you do not need to be on a benefit to claim it.
Yes, a child moving to England from another country is entitled to early years provision on the same basis as any other child, regardless of whether they have British citizenship.