What is free early education?
All children are eligible for free early education starting from the term after they turn 3. This means from 1 September, 1 January or 1 April after their third birthday. You can claim up to and including the term in which your child turns 5, although many children will start school before this.
Where can I get it?
You may choose to get your free early education in a school nursery class. If this is the case, you do not need to complete an early education application form.
Alternatively, you can claim your free early education at a private day nursery, pre-school playgroup, nursery unit of an independent school or at an accredited network childminder. You can only claim your free hours at a provider who is included in Trafford's approved list.
If your child gets their early education at a provider which is not in Trafford, you will need to claim your free hours from the authority in which the provider is situated. If your child gets their early education at a provider in Trafford, you must apply to Trafford for your free hours, regardless of where you live.
How to apply
To claim your free hours, the parent or carer of each child must submit an application form. The application lasts until the child moves to a school.
How many hours can I claim?
You can claim a maximum of 15 free hours per week. The maximum hours you can claim depends on how many days per week your child attends the provider.
- If you attend 1 day, you can claim a maximum of 10 hours
- If you attend 2 or more days, you can claim a maximum of 15 hours
Please be aware that although the government has set these maximum limits, it is up to individual early education providers to decide how they are going to offer the free hours. This means that the number of hours in a session and the days available may be different at each provider. Please check with your provider if you are unsure how they offer the free hours.
You can claim a maximum of 570 hours per year, which is 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year. If your provider is only open during term time, you will be allocated your free hours for the actual number of weeks which the provider is open during each term. If your provider is open all year round, you will be allocated 14 weeks for autumn term, 12 weeks for spring term and 12 weeks for summer term.
Some providers who are open all year round may allow you to stretch your free hours over the full year. For example, you could get 47½ free hours per calendar month. You may find this is an easier way to work out any payments you need to make to your provider for additional hours or services.
Can I claim at more than one provider?
You can claim your free hours at two different providers but you cannot claim more than 15 hours per week in total. If you do this, your free hours will be allocated on a pro-rata basis calculated by the number of hours your child attends each setting. You cannot claim at more than two providers. If you attend less than 15 hours per week at a school nursery class, it is possible to claim the additional hours at another provider.
30 hours free childcare
Find out more about 30 hours free childcare for working parents.