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Early education for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds

All 3 and 4-year-old children and some 2-year-old children are entitled to 15 hours a week of free early education and childcare. This adds up to 570 hours per year.

What are the benefits to your child?

Enjoying good quality early education has been found to give children a good start in life, making them more likely to enjoy and do well at school. They can:

  • Develop their speech and language
  • Make friends and play with other children
  • Try out new and exciting activities
  • Learn new skills


Hear the real stories of parents whose two-year-olds are getting free childcare in Merton.

Watch the video on YouTube

When can my child get a free place?

Eligible children can take up a free place after their second or third birthday from the relevant date shown below.

Child born between Will be eligible from
1 January and 31 March 1 April
1 April and 31 August 1 September
1 September and 31 December 1 January

Where can my child get a free place?

You have a choice about where your child takes up their place.

How are the free places delivered?

From September 2017, early education can be provided using one of these patterns:

  1. three hours a day over five days a week
  2. five hours a day over three days a week
  3. flexible hours between 6am and 8pm

Children can take up places at a maximum of two sites in a single day.


  • must not be longer than 10 hours
  • must not be less than 2 hours
  • must not be before 6am or after 8pm

How do I know if my 2-year-old is eligible?

Your 2-year-old child may be able to get a free place if you have an annual household income of under £16,190 (before tax) and either

  • receive certain non-working benefits or
  • receive working tax credit or
  • your child receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Find out if you can claim a place by visiting the My Early Learning website

Places are also available if:

  1. Your child has a current Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP); or
  2. You have adopted your child or you have a special guardianship order or residence order to care for them or
  3. A child is looked after by the Local Authority, for example, they are in foster care

If you meet any of these three criteria, you will need to have paper proof of this to claim your child's free place.

Extended entitlement (30 hours) of free childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds

From September 2017, children of working families who meet the eligibility criteria will be eligible to receive an additional 15 hours a week or 1,140 hours a year in total of free childcare.

If your child is eligible for free childcare for all 3 and 4-year-olds on 1 September 2017 (see the table above) and you meet the criteria for the additional hours, they will be able to receive the extra free hours from September 2017. Other eligible children can receive the extra free hours following their third birthday (see the table above).

The main eligibility criteria are:

  • both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family) or on leave from employment, such as maternity leave or on statutory sick pay
  • each parent earns on average a weekly minimum amount equivalent to working 16 hours at National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage
  • neither parent has an income of more than £100,000 per year

Parents are able to apply via the Childcare Service. If they are eligible, they will be given a unique 11 digit number. Parents need to give this number to the childcare provider they choose, along with their National Insurance number and proof of their child’s date of birth so that the number can be checked to confirm it is valid.

The Government has launched a website called Childcare Choices where you can find out what help there is to assist with childcare costs, including funded places and the extended entitlement.

We are working with childcare providers and schools in Merton to help them deliver the additional 15 hours. You may wish to speak to your current or intended childcare provider about their offer.

Details of providers of early education and childcare can be found on the Merton Family Services Directory.

How do I make a complaint?

If you are unhappy that your child may not be receiving their free entitlement in the way that it is published on this website, please see the complaints procedure for more information.

To start a formal review, you will need to complete a Stage Two Form (as specified in the complaints procedure above).


Frequently Asked Questions - free places for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds

Early Education for 2-year-olds leaflet

Download the Department for Education 30 Hours Frequently Asked Questions document (PDF)

Information about free childcare for two-year-olds has been translated into:

Contact us


This page was last updated on Friday 23 June 2017

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