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Free early learning for two-year-olds

Last Updated 30/08/2019

Is your family living on a low income or claiming income based benefits? Does your two year old have additional needs, or have they left care? You may be entitled to claim free childcare up to a maximum of 15 hours during term time, or 11 hours per week throughout the year.

Every eligible child will be given the opportunity to experience high quality early years’ education with the support of a trained, high quality registered childminder, nursery, children’s centre or pre-school.  The aim of the programme is to enable your child to receive high quality early education that will help them to be school ready. 

Who is eligible?

Families must be in receipt of one or more of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit - if you and your partner have a combined income from work of less than £15,400 a year after tax
  • Tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
  • The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • The Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

A child can also get free early education and childcare if any of the following apply:

  • They’re looked after by a local council
  • They have a Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
  • They get Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • They’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order, or adoption order

This entitlement is available in the term after an eligible child’s 2nd birthday. You should be able to keep your child at your preferred provider until they can access a school place (normally in the September following their 3rd birthday). Your entitlement will continue to be free regardless of whether your family’s financial circumstances change.

When will my child/children be eligible for their free place?

Child’s second birthday falls between:


They will be entitled to their free place from:

Parents can contact their borough to apply for a places from:

1 April and 31 August

The start of the Autumn term in September

From April


1 September and 31 December

The start of the Spring term in January

From September 

1 January and 31 March

The start of the Summer term in April

From January


How can I apply?

Register online and apply for Free Early Learning for your 2 year olds 

You can now complete your two year old funding request using our online application form. This is the quickest and clearest way to ensure your information is received by the Early Years’ Service.

This information will be used to check if your child is eligible for a free place.  If you are eligible, you will be notified and allocated a place. If you are not already registered, this information will also be used to register your family with your local children’s centre. This ensures that you are kept informed of local services that can benefit your family.

If you have any difficulty completing the form, you can get help from your local children's centre. Alternatively, if you are not about to get to a children's centre, you can get assistance from the Family Information Service by calling 020 7361 3302.

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