Free early education and childcare

Free education and childcare for two to four-year-olds

All three to four-year-olds and some two-year-olds can get free early education. It can be taken as 15 hours a week during term time (38 weeks a year) or you can spread it out to suit your needs, up to 570 hours a yearIt stops once your child starts reception class in a state school.

Your child could have a free place with any early years and childcare provider who is registered with us including:

  • pre-schools
  • day nurseries
  • independent (private) schools
  • school-run nurseries, classes or nursery schools
  • funded childminders

Find a registered childcare provider using our childcare finder.

When you can start claiming

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

Child's birthday When you can claim
1 January to 31 March The beginning of term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 August The beginning of term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 December The beginning of term on or after 1 January

Your child can claim a free place from the beginning of the term after they become three years old (or two years old if they're eligible).


For a three or four-year old: If your child was born on 20 May 2013 you can get free childcare when the next term starts after 1 September 2016.

For an eligible two-year-old: If your child was born on 15 February 2014 you can get free childcare when the next term starts after 1 April 2016.

Free childcare for two-year-olds

Your two-year-old can get free childcare if you get one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit
  • tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • support through part six of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • the Working Tax Credit four-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

They can also get free childcare if any of the following apply:

  • they're looked after by the council
  • they have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • they get Disability Living Allowance
  • they've left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order

The 15 hours must be used over at least two days each week and you can use a maximum of 10 hours a day.

Find out if you can claim

To find out if you can get free childcare for your two-year-old text your name, date of birth, National Insurance number, address, and the name and age of your child to 07887 057367. Or contact your local Children's Centre, talk to your Health Visitor or call Advice Plymouth on 03444 111 444. If you can claim free childcare we'll send you a letter which you can show to your childcare provider as proof.