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3 and 4 Year Olds


3 and 4 year old children are entitled to free early education from the term following their 3rd birthday until they reach compulsory school age (the beginning of the term following their 5th birthday).


Children are entitled to access school reception class from September following their 4th birthday. Where parents choose to defer entry, and keep their child in a Private, Voluntary or Independent provision they may still access the 15 hour entitlement until their child reaches compulsory school age, the term after their 5th birthday.


Places must be offered flexibly to meet the needs of parents and providers will deliver their own model of flexibility within the parameters set out in the EYE Guidance. Parents must liaise with the provider of choice to decide which model suits their needs.


There is no requirement for all early education places to be delivered only over 38 weeks of the year or in line with maintained school term dates.


30 hours


The government has committed to doubling the amount of free childcare from 15 hours to 30 hours per week for working families from September 2017.


The Government has increased the amount of free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds. Since September 2017, the entitlement has been extended to offer up to 15 hours more free childcare for eligible families. This is to support children to access quality provision and encourage parents to take up employment or to increase their working hours. This is in response to many working families highlighting the increasing costs of childcare across the country.


Example calendars and parent declaration forms have been created to demonstrate how the universal and extended entitlement hours can be calculated. These can be accessed on the ‘Registration & Delivery’ page of the website.




Eligible working families are defined as those where all parents (lone or couple) earn the equivalent of 16 hours a week at National Minimum/Living Wage; and no parent earns more than £100,000.


Providers are encouraged to start planning now in preparation for the implementation in September 2017. Sufficiency is a key priority within this agenda and the Early Years and Childcare Support team will continue to support the childcare sector to ensure the additional hours are delivered to families successfully.


Providers are encouraged to use the 30 Hours Planning Tool to start reviewing the number of families accessing the provision who may be eligible for the extended entitlement, identifying any barriers or challenges and carefully considering solutions to ensure these are addressed before full roll out.


The Department for Education (DfE) awarded a two-year national support contract to Childcare Works in October 2016. The project is to work with providers and local authorities on the implementation of the extended entitlement to 30-hours of free childcare for working parents. Childcare Works has a robust programme of practical and effective support, challenge and solutions for all types of providers.


The Government is introducing new ways to help parents with childcare costs. Childcare Choices is the new online HMRC childcare service.


Childcare Choices website sets out all current and upcoming Government childcare offers and support available to parents, including the Tax-Free Childcare scheme, 30 hours, the universal 15 free hours, 2 Year Old childcare offer, Tax Credits, Universal Credit and Childcare Vouchers.


Included on the website is a Childcare Calculator for parents to compare all offers and support available to them and check what works best for their family.


The Process


The process for parents and providers to access and deliver 30 hours free childcare:


  1. Parents can apply for 30 hours childcare through HMRC Childcare Choices website
  2. Childcare Choices will provide parents with an ID code which will clarify whether they are eligible for free childcare
  3. Eligible parents will then provide their chosen childcare provider with the ID code
  4. The childcare provider will check the ID through Lincolnshire County Council’s Early Years Provider Hub
  5. Parents will be required to re-confirm their eligibility every 3 months


Lincolnshire’s eligibility checker will be available in the Early Years Provider Hub and all providers are currently being invited to access this to complete checks.


Providers will need to have the parents permission to complete a check. The parent declaration form can be used for this or providers can adapt their own registration forms, or alternatively an example consent form is available for providers to download on this web page.


Grace Period


The Local Authority will continue to fund a place for a child whose parents cease to meet the eligibility criteria and ensure that providers are aware of this. This is known as the “grace period”. During the grace period, the Local Authority will continue to fund a child for their additional 15 hours a week over 38 weeks of the year, or its equivalent if the entitlement is being stretched.