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You may have heard about the Government’s free childcare schemes for children aged 3 and 4, giving them between 15 and 30 hours of free childcare on a weekly basis. These ‘free funded hours’ give eligible children anywhere from 570 to 1140 hours of free childcare per year at a suitably registered, Government-approved childcare setting. Tic Toc Nursery is one such setting in Clayhall, Ilford, and we’re happy to support the schemes to make childcare more affordable for families. But how do the free childcare schemes work? What are the rules? More importantly, is your child eligible? In today’s post we give you answers to these and many other questions relating to free, funded childcare hours for 3 and 4-year-olds in England.
The ‘15 Hours’ Free Childcare Scheme for 3 & 4-Year-Olds
The good news is that pretty much all 3 and 4-year-old children living in England are eligible for 15 hours of funded childcare per week, across 38 weeks of the year. It’s not means-tested, nor is eligibility affected by whether parents/guardians are working — or unemployed.
This scheme allows 3 and 4-year-olds to receive free childcare for 15 hours per week and this is usually taken over the course of 38 weeks per annum. However, it must total no more than 570 hours in any one year. Exactly how the hours are spread out can vary, though, so long as:
- the childcare setting agrees to the adjustment in how the hours are spread out and;
- it still totals no more than 570 hours over the course of the year after adjustment.
Children are eligible once they reach the age of 3 and they can start at approved childcare settings in the term following that birthday. Terms at childcare settings usually start early in January, April or September. The children remain eligible for this free childcare scheme until they start in Reception year at school or reach the age of 5, the legal age at which full-time education becomes compulsory in the UK.
Applying for the ‘15 Hours’ Free Childcare Scheme
To apply for 15 hours of free childcare per week for your 3 or 4-year-old at Tic Toc Nursery in Ilford, please contact the nursery and we’ll be happy to help. If you’re elsewhere in England, you can apply by contacting your proposed childcare provider or through your local council.
Please note that funding for the free childcare hours is paid direct to the registered childcare setting, not you/your child. Claims cannot be backdated.
The ‘30 Hours’ Free Childcare Scheme for 3 & 4-Year-Olds
Eligible 3 and 4-year-olds can top up the standard 15 hour scheme with an additional 15 hours per week, potentially giving them 30 hours per week of free childcare over 38 weeks of the year. As before, it’s sometimes possible to use the hours so they’re spread out differently, so long as they total no more than 1140 hours per annum. Again, the childcare setting would also need to agree the alternative pattern.
Rules around the top-up to 30 hours per week are more stringent than the standard ‘15 hours’ scheme, however …