Free Early Years Provision
All three and four year olds and some two year olds in England are currently entitled to free, part-time early learning, care and development.
Three and Four Year Old Free Early Years Provision
It lasts for up to two years, until children reach statutory school age. Children can currently attend on a part-time basis for 15 hours a week, for 38 weeks of the year. This can be taken flexibly over a minimum of two days, and a minimum of 2½ hours per day with up to two providers. Some two year olds are also able to access this provision (see below for more information).
When does my child qualify for the free entitlement?
Child born between Term of eligible entry
1 April – 31 August – September intake
1 September – 31 December – January intake
1 January – 31 March – April intake
Some maintained settings may be able to admit children earlier than the date stated above. Please talk to the individual provider who will be able to give you more information.
Where can I access the free entitlement for my child?
- Maintained (Durham County Council) nursery schools and nursery units.
- Children’s Centres.
- Private, voluntary and independent day nurseries and playgroups or childminders.
For further information please view the Early Years brochure.pdf (14 pages, 1508kb). Please note this brochure is currently being updated. Free early learning can now be taken flexibly over a minimum of two days, and a minimum of 2½ hours per day.
Two year old free early years provision
Some two year olds may be entitled to free early education for up to 15 hours per week, 38 weeks per year, starting the term after their second birthday. This can take place at a local nursery or with a childminder. If you are eligible, your child could receive 15 hours a week (term time only), or 11 hours a week (50 weeks a year).
Is my child eligible for a free place?
You can apply for a free place, if you receive one or more of the following:
- Income Support
- Income based Job Seekers Allowance
- Support for a ‘looked after” child
- Child Tax Credit (income below £16,190) and not entitled to Working Tax Credit
- Guaranteed Element of State Pension Credit
- Support under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- Employment and Support Allowance – income related
When could my child start?
If you qualify for free childcare, your child could take up their ‘play and learn’ sessions, the term after their 2nd birthday.
How do I apply?
You can download an application form Application for free play and learn for 2 year olds.pdf (2 pages, 1114kb) or contact the Childcare Places Team for a paper copy. You can return your completed application by post or drop it off at your local children’s centre. There are lots of people who will be happy to help you apply and answer any questions you may have, such as your health visitor, local nursery or children’s centre.
Our Nursery Application Form can be found in our Downloadable Forms section of our website.
For further help or information, please contact the Childcare Places Team on the contact details below. To find out about childcare options in your area, please contact Families Information Service on the contact details below.
Families Information Service
Durham County Council
County Hall, Durham, County Durham, DH1 5UJ
email: email@example.com Tel: 0800 917 2917
Children and Adults Services
County Hall, Durham, Durham, DH1 5UJ
Tel: 03000 268 913
Please view the document below regarding admission to nursery schools:
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)
The majority of Children with Special Educational Needs can be supported at any nursery school, nursery unit or Early Years setting.
Nursery provision is also available in certain Special Schools. Support for individual pupils is determined by Durham Local Authority through Education, Health and Care Assessment.
The Durham Local Authority Admissions criteria stipulate that children are offered a Nursery place according to their age. However, children identified with Special Educational Needs are given priority irrespective of when they have their third birthday.
If you feel that your child has additional needs that we need to consider and that may entitle them to be given priority during the admission process, please let us know when you submit their application form.
Please view or download the School Admission Policy, SEN Policy and Equal Opportunities Policy which can be found in our School Policies section.
If you have any questions about SEND please contact the school and we will try our best to help you.