Free early education for 3 and 4 year olds

How do I apply?

You can apply for the extended entitlement by visiting Childcare Choices or by going directly to the online eligibility checking service.

During the application you will be asked for information about yourself and your partner if you have one. The information you will need to provide will include: your National Insurance number, the date you started work or the date you are due to start work, details of any other government support that you get and, if you are self employed, your Unique Taxpayer Reference.

If you have difficulty with the application or do not have access to the internet you can phone the Childcare Service Customer Interaction Centre on 0300 123 4097.

Once you have applied successfully you will be given an Eligibility Reference Number. You will need to give this number to your chosen provider, or share it with a provider via our Citizen Portal (see below) along with your National Insurance Number. The provider will ask you to sign a form giving consent for them to share your details with the local authority. This will enable the provider to check your eligibility and receive information about grace periods. The provider has to make this check before they can offer your child a free early education extended entitlement place.

Once you have accepted an extended entitlement place for your child it is important that you reconfirm your eligibility for the place every three months. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will send you a reminder when you need to do this.

If you lose your job whilst your child is receiving an extended entitlement place, you will be given some time to find another job before your child loses their place. This is called a grace period. You can find out about this on the Childcare Choices website or you can talk to your provider about it.