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Free early education entitlement

If you have a child aged 2, 3 or 4 years old, you may be entitled to a free childcare place.  

The Free Early Education Entitlement is a central government scheme, which provides up to 15 or 30 hours per week of free childcare (subject to parents meeting certain eligibility criteria) until a child starts reception class or, reach compulsory school age (if later).

Early education benefits children’s social, physical and mental development and helps them prepare for school. Evidence shows that regular and good quality early education has lasting benefits for all children.

Free early education is available through day nurseries, pre-schools or playgroups, independent schools, maintained nursery schools and classes and childminders. However, the free entitlement doesn't offer a guarantee of a place at your preferred provider.  

You can view the Ofsted inspection report of an early education provider on the Ofsted website.

There are three entitlements available to children aged 2, 3 and 4 years old in Southwark.

Universal free early education entitlement for 3 and 4-year-olds

Every child aged 3 and 4 years old is entitled to receive a maximum of 15 hours of free early education per week until they start reception class, or reach compulsory school age (if later). Parents don't need to apply for this entitlement and there are no eligibility criteria. You can  find further information about this entitlement.

Two-year-old disadvantaged free early education entitlement

Some two-year-olds are entitled to receive a maximum of 15 hours of free early education per week until the term after their third birthday. Parents will need to meet specific eligibility criteria to qualify. Find more information about this entitlement.

Working families free entitlement

 Working Parents of children aged 2,3 and 4-year-olds can get up to 15 or 30 hours of free childcare per week if they meet specific eligibility criteria.Find more information about this entitlement

Other childcare support

You can also check whether you could be eligible for a range of other childcare benefits, such as tax-free childcare and childcare vouchers, by visiting the Childcare Choices website.

Contact us

If you're not happy with the way your child has received their free entitlement, contact us for advice. You should raise any concerns with your early education provider in the first instance. However, if you're still not happy, email us at

Page last updated: 13 March 2024


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