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Free funding for 3 and 4 year olds

All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. If this is taken during term-time only, this would work out as 15 hours a week over 38 weeks of the year.

From September 2017, the government will increase the free early education or childcare for families who meet certain criteria to 30 hours a week (if used over 38 weeks a year), see the Department for Education's (DfE) Childcare Bill.

Parents information


The date you start claiming depends on your child's birthday.

Child's birthdayWhen you can claim
1 January to 31 March
The beginning of term on or after 1 April
1 April - 31 August

The beginning of term on or after 1 September

1 September - 31 December
The beginning of tern on or after 1 January

Your child remains eligible for the universal entitlement up to and including the term in which they turn five but once your child starts attending school, their entitlement stops.

Your child can start school in the September after which they turn four and must be in full time education at the start of the term after which they turn five.

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  • Places are provided by a variety of childcare providers in the maintained, private, voluntary and independent sectors including childminders.
  • To find childcare in your local area, please search our online childcare directory or contact us on the Childcare Information Line 0300 003 4561.
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  • No, your provider should not charge you for any of your entitlement hours
  • The fees that would normally be charged by your early years provider for these hours must be removed from your invoice
  • Your provider may charge you for additional services such as snacks or specific activities, or extra childcare that is additional to the free entitlement place
  • These additional services cannot be offered as a condition of you accessing your free nursery entitlement place
  • You cannot be charged administration fees if your child is only accessing the free early education entitlement
  • If additional childcare is taken up, then an early years provider can charge this fee.
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  • Yes, funding is allocated on the basis of where your child is educated, rather than where they live 
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  • You don’t need to do anything, except inform your early years provider that you wish to access the free entitlement through them
  • Your provider is responsible for claiming the funding for your child from Wiltshire Council, and will ask you to confirm your child’s details and sign a termly headcount form
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You can split your child’s entitlement between a maximum of two early years providers at any one time: three if your child has special educational needs and one early years provider is a district specialist centre.

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We will follow up any complaints received from parents about the charging of fees or failure to pass on the benefit of the free entitlement

You can contact us in a number of ways:

Online: Complete a parent complaint form

By email: earlyyears@wiltshire.gov.uk

By telephone: 01225 757972

By post:

Free Entitlement Funding

2nd floor, County Hall

Trowbridge

Wiltshire 

BA14 8JN

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Providers information


Free early education can be claimed by parents for all three and four year olds. It covers up to a maximum of 15 hours per week, accessed over a minimum of 38 weeks of the year; a total maximum entitlement of 570 hours each year. Parents do not contribute towards this entitlement but may be charged by providers for additional services such as snacks, specific activities or extra childcare over the allocated 15 hours.

Parents may choose to send their child to a provider for less than 15 hours a week but extend this over more than 38 weeks during the year.

Parents may choose to send their child to a provider for less than 15 hours a week but extend this over more than 38 weeks during the year. For more information about this, please see extension to free entitlement funding.

It is the early years provider’s responsibility to check that children are eligible for funding. They should ask to see birth certificates if they are in any doubt.

Funding is allocated on the basis of where the child is educated, rather than where they live. This means that all children attending should be claimed for whether they live in or outside Wiltshire.

Date of birth

Summer funded period 2016 (terms 5 and 6)

Autumn funded period 2016 (terms 1 and 2)Spring funded period 2017 (terms 3 and 4)
1/4/11 - 31/8/11
Eligible
Compulsory school age
Compulsory school age
1/9/11 -31/12/11
Eligible
Eligible
Compulsory school age
1/1/12 - 31/3/12
Eligible
Eligible
Eligible
1/4/12 - 31/8/12
Eligible
Eligible
Eligible
1/9/12 - 31/12/12
Eligible
Eligible
Eligible
1/1/13 - 31/3/13
Eligible
Eligible
Eligible
1/4/13 - 31/8/13
Too young
Eligible
Eligible
1/9/13 - 31/12/13
Too young
Too young
Eligible
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The Department for Education's statutory guidance for local authorities on the provision of early education and childcare details the national conditions which providers must work to in order to qualify for free entitlement.

Wiltshire’s Local Code of Practice was developed in consultation with the Early Years’ reference group and summarises the local conditions providers must comply with in order to take the free entitlement. It also provides information about the administrative processes involved in claiming it.

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Funding type
provider type
2016 - 2017 hourly rate
2017 - 2018 hourly rate
2 year olds
All childcare providers
£4.97
£5.32
3 & 4 year olds
All childcare providers
£3.81
£4.14
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Wiltshire’s early years providers receive funding for eligible three and four year old children on a monthly basis. The amount a group receives is calculated using a Single Funding Formula
Initial payments are calculated and paid according to an annual provisional funding estimate.
This is revised throughout the year as the Early Years & Childcare team is provided with more accurate information about the actual numbers of qualifying children attending a provider during three funding periods. The table below shows the maximum hours which can be claimed for a child in each funding period.



Summer 2016 
(Terms 5 & 6)

Autumn 2016
(Terms 1 & 2)
Spring 2017 
(Terms 3 & 4)
Funded dates1 April - 31 August1 September - 31 December1 January - 31 March
Maximum number of funded weeks13 - 22 weeks14 - 17 weeks11 - 13 weeks*
Maximum number of funded hours
195 hours210 hours165 hours

*Where children attend for fewer hours a week, or providers are unable to supply the maximum number of hours/funded weeks, the level of funding attracted will be pro-rata.

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Early Years Pupil Premium is additional funding available to early years providers delivering funded hours to eligible three and four year old children. Funding has been set a national rate of 53p per hour and could give an early years provider an additional £302 per year per eligible child accessing the full 570 hours with them.

Children do not need to access the full entitlement to be eligible for Early Years Pupil Premium as funding will be calculated on a pro-rata basis.

For more information have a look at the Pupil Premium page.

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Last updated: 7 February 2017 | Last reviewed: 7 February 2017