This is a universal entitlement for ALL 3 and 4 year olds. Children become eligible for their free early education place the term after their 3rd birthday and this place is available until they reach compulsory school age (the term after their 5th birthday)
What is a free early education place?
When can my child take up their free early education place?
Your child will be able to take up their place from the term after their 3rd birthday. For example, if your child was three in October, they would be entitled to take up their place from the beginning of the spring term, which starts in January.
If the child’s 3rd birthday is on or between:
The child will be entitled to a free place from:
1st January to 31st March
Summer Term (April onwards)
1st April to 31st August
Autumn Term (September onwards)
1st September to 31st December
Spring Term (January onwards)
How many hours does my child get in a free early education place?
- Your child is entitled to access up to 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year (term time), which equates to 570 hours over a year
- The traditional offer of a place at a school nursery or with a sessional provider (sometimes known as a pre-school or playgroup) is for children to attend either five mornings or five afternoons a week, term time.
- You may be able to choose a different pattern of attendance depending on which childcare provider or school you choose to use. Some schools and childcare providers do offer the early education places ‘flexibly’. A flexible offer could include a choice of full and half days or the opportunity to ‘stretch’ the hours across more than 38 weeks of the year. An example of a stretched offer would be 11 hours a week for 51 weeks of the year. You need to discuss with the school or childcare provider of your choice what their offer is.
- The early education place can be taken at a maximum of two sites per day – which means a parent may use any combination of school nursery and childcare providers to access the entitlement hours, up to two sites a day
Where can my child take up their early education place?
You can apply for a school nursery place or choose a childcare provider. If your choice is a childcare provider you will need to check they are included on the Doncaster Councils Directory of Funded Providers. The Directory has different types of childcare providers on it and you need to decide what type of provision will best meet your needs:
- School Nursery: these offer places for 3 and 4 year olds, are part of a school and some schools may also provide places for 2 year olds
- Private Day Nursery: these nurseries open all day and usually provide childcare for children 0 to 5 years old
- Sessional Providers: these may be called a pre-school or playgroup and operate on a sessional basis which is usually for three hours at a time and provide childcare for 2 to 5 year olds
- Childminders: provide childcare in their own home, usually open all day and have a range of ages from 0 to 8 years old and sometimes older children as well
- Independent Schools: these offer places for 3 and 4 year olds and are part of a school.
The parent / carer will need to check if the type of childcare provider they would prefer to use is available in their area and registered on the Directory of Funded Providers. Every childcare provider will have their own admission procedures and may have a limited number of places. It is important that you check if there are any places available and you follow the childcare providers’ admissions process so you can confirm you have secured a place for your child. The entitlement to a free place does not offer a guarantee of a place at any one particular school/childcare provision or a particular pattern of provision.
What do I need to do?
To apply for an early education place with a:
- School nursery, you can apply online at doncaster.gov.uk/admissions or complete an application form which is available from the Doncaster Councils Admissions Team Telephone: 01302 736000. When a school nursery place has been confirmed, it will be the school who decides which session a child will attend. Whilst schools make every effort to take parents preferred sessions into account, it must be understood that it is not always possible to meet everyone’s requests.
- Childcare provider or independent school, you need to check with them they are included in the Directory of Funded Providers, find out if they have any places available and ask how they offer these places. The parent will need to follow the provider’s admission policy and administration process to secure a place.
Your child must have taken up a place by ‘Headcount Date’ to secure the free entitlement funding for your child’s place at the school / childcare provision. The Headcount Dates are as follows:
- Spring Term 18th January; Summer Term 17th May; Autumn Term 4th October
You will be required to complete and sign a Parent Declaration Form which gives the school / childcare provider authorisation to claim the free entitlement funding on behalf of your child.
The Council will not make an adjustment to funding allocations for children that move between school / childcare providers mid-term. Therefore the parent should understand that should they decide to move mid-term it cannot be guaranteed a funded place would be available elsewhere.
How do I find out what childcare providers are in my area?
- You can see what school nurseries and childcare providers are available by clicking on the following link: childcare and schools search
- You can contact the Families Information Service to have the contact details for schools and childcare providers sent to you via email: firstname.lastname@example.org all enquiries will be responded to within three working days.
- Freephone: 08001384568, operates Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, outside of these hours there is an answer phone service
Will I have to pay anything for my child's early education place?
No, the actual place will be delivered free to the parent and the parent must not be required to pay any fee as a condition of taking up a free early education place.
The Government statutory guidance is clear that schools/childcare providers can charge for meals, consumables (such as nappies and sun cream), additional activities (such as trips) or additional hours (hours that are taken over and above the free entitlement hours). Where a parent chooses to pay for meals, consumables or additional hours, this is a private arrangement between the parent and the school/childcare provider.
Schools/childcare providers should be open and transparent about any additional charges, so parents have a clear choice and know the cost of any extras they may wish to purchase. Parents should also be made aware of the options available to them if they do not wish to purchase any extras, for example a parent may supply their own consumables or a meal / snack for their child.
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