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All 3- and 4-year-olds are entitled to up to 15 hours of funded early education or childcare a week

IntroductionEarly Years EntitlementExtended entitlementMore Information

Other information


You can claim the early years entitlement at

  • a day nursery
  • a pre-school or playgroup
  • an independent school
  • a children’s centre nursery
  • a maintained nursery
  • a reception class in a primary or infant school
  • a foundation stage unit and academy
  • with an approved childminder

These are known as providers and all providers are under a duty to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage. The providers must be registered and inspected by Ofsted or the Independent Schools Inspectorate and be able to offer a minimum of 38 weeks in a year. The provider must be registered with us to offer the early years entitlement.

The early years entitlement gives your child a maximum of 570 hours each year. This will start the funding period after your child’s third birthday and will last for 3 funding periods (equivalent to one year).

The maximum entitlement that can be claimed is 15 hours per week.

The maximum entitlement that can be claimed per day is 10 hours, up to a maximum of 15 per week.  The Early Years Entitlements can only be claimed in full hours or in blocked of 15 minutes.

The next entitlement year, (starting the funding period after your child’s fourth birthday) your child will receive another automatic allocation of 570 hours which will also last for another 3 funding periods.

For example Sam is 3 on 24 June 2023. He will receive 570 hours from 1 September 2023 until the following August. On 1 September 2024, when Sam is 4, he will receive another 570 hours until the following August.

The funding can be used in a number of ways, for example:

Sam attended a term time only setting for 20 hours per week. The setting is open for 38 weeks per year. Sam could claim a maximum 15 hours per week for each of those weeks. This would total 570 hours from the start of his entitlement (1 September) to July when the setting closes for the holidays. The extra 5 hours per week Sam attends would have to be paid for by you, the parent.

If Sam attended a provider that was open all year round for 20 hours per week, the 15 hour weekly entitlement will not cover Sam for the whole year. Instead, the provider could reduce your monthly bill by 47.5 hours (570 hours of entitlement divided by 12 months = 47.50 per month). You would have to pay for the remaining hours accessed.

Each provider must be registered to offer the funding and will have policies in place for deducting the entitlement. Some providers that are open all year round will only offer the funding during school term time and any hours accessed outside of this will have to be paid for. You will need to speak to your chosen provider and ask to see their policy for how they deduct the funding. You do not have to access the full 570 hours over the year if you do not wish to. If you choose to access the maximum of 15 hours per week over the first 38 weeks of the year, all of the available hours for the year will be used. Any hours accessed after that will have to be paid for, therefore, it may not be the best way to access your funding.

Early Years Entitlement

Eligibility for Early Years Entitlement

Your child will become eligible for the early years entitlement in the funding period after your child’s third birthday. If your child qualifies for funding for 2 year olds, then funding will be available from the date stated on the acceptance letter addressed to you.

The funding periods are:

  • Autumn – 1 September to 31 December
  • Spring – 1 January to 31 March
  • Summer – 1 April to 31 August

Below is a guide if a child is about to access the funding for the first time, it is broken down into funding periods and birthdays:

  • If the child is born between 1 April and 31 August, funding can be claimed from 1 September – autumn funding period
  • If the child is born between 1 September and 31 December, funding can be claimed from 1 January – spring funding period
  • If the child is born between 1 January and 31 March, funding can be claimed from 1  April – summer funding period

Children who are 4 between 1 September and 31 December will be able to claim up to a maximum of 380 hours from 1 January to 31 August.  Children who are 4 between 1 January and 31 March will be able to claim up to a maximum of 237.5 hours from 1 April to 31 August.  If the child doesn’t then go to a maintained/academy/free school from the following September, then any remaining hours from the 570 will be available to use.

Applying for the funding

You do not need to apply for the funding. Your chosen provider will claim on your behalf and the money will be paid directly to the provider from Somerset Council. You must check with your provider that they are registered to offer the early years entitlement.

Each provider will be required to send us:

  • a copy of your child’s birth certificate or passport with a signed Child Registration Form
  • a completed and signed Parent’s Declaration Form to claim the funding

These will be submitted by the provider on your behalf. If a birth certificate or passport is not available, other forms of legal documentation may be accepted. Please either contact your provider or contact the Entitlements Team for clarification. If these documents are not returned, the early year’s entitlement will not be paid and then you may be charged for the hours your child has accessed.

How much is the funding worth

We will pay the provider directly for the hours claimed up to the maximum number of hours available. Please talk to your provider if you are unsure how many hours you have remaining. Ask your provider for their prospectus or fee policy showing how fees are charged.

Providers charging for extras

Providers are entitled to charge you for any hours accessed over the early years entitlement and for additional services, such as food. However, this must be made clear to you in advance as well as being clearly defined on the bill. Please refer to your provider’s prospectus or fees policy showing how fees are charged.

What happens if your child attends more than one provider

You can claim at a maximum of 3 providers that your child attends at any one time.  The total universal hours claimed at the three providers cannot exceed 15 per week combined or the 570 over the year.

If the total hours claimed exceeds the maximum entitlement or 15 hours per week, the universal entitlement will be apportioned between the 3 providers on a pro-rata basis. Therefore, in the event of an overclaim, you do not have the right to choose which provider is funded through the entitlement for that funding period.

Carrying forward your child’s unused hours

In each entitlement year, hours can be carried forward from one funding period to the next. If your child attends less than the maximum number of hours per week, you may be able to use the hours in the following funding period up to the maximum of 15 per week. However, you cannot carry hours over from one entitlement year to the next. Any unused hours will be lost.

What happens when your child starts school part-time

Some schools run a staggered entry system for their new children. This means that your child will only attend school on a part-time basis to start with (your child may not start attending full-time until half term). In this situation, a lot of children will continue to go to preschool until the school takes them full-time. Once your child is attending school, even if it is only for a few hours per week to start with, the early years’ entitlement will not be available to claim by any provider. Therefore, you will have to pay the providers for any hours that your child attends once they have started school or if their name appears on the school roll or register.

Deferred entry

The Department for Education (DfE) requires all Admission Authorities to offer parents the opportunity to defer their child’s entry to school. This means rather than the usual September entry, you can choose for your child to start later in the year. This is usually in January at the beginning of the spring term but they can defer until later in the year if they wish.

Please note, if your child is born between 1 April and 31 August you can choose to defer your child’s entry for the entire school year until the following September. However, your child would be admitted into the year 1 class, in accordance with their chronological age. This is in line with the Department for Education requirements.

You still need to apply for a school place in the normal way. If a place can be offered at the preferred school, it would then be held open until your child starts school. If you decide to defer entry until later in the school year, for example, in January, the early year’s entitlement can be claimed by your provider until your child starts school. More information is available from Customer Contact and the School Admissions Team.

Extended entitlement

Some working parents will be entitled to an extra 15 hours per week early education and childcare for their 3- and 4-year-old child on top of the current offer. This is called extended entitlement. For more information on the eligibility criteria, please see our 30 hours extended entitlement page.

How to make a complaint

If you are not satisfied that your child has received their early years entitlement as set out above, you can write to the Entitlements Team, Floor C4, County Hall, Taunton, TA1 4DY or email

If you are not satisfied with the way in which your complaint has been dealt with or you believe that we have not acted reasonably, you may make a complaint to the Local Authority Ombudsman by writing to Local Government Ombudsman, PO Box 4771, Coventry, CV4 0EH or using the advice line 0300 061 0614. Such complaints will only be considered when the local complaints procedures have been exhausted.

More Information

If you would like more information about the early years entitlement, then please contact the Entitlements Team on 01823 357039 or email

Extra help with childcare costs

There are several ways to get extra help with the costs of childcare. To find out about the help on offer please visit our Paying for Childcare page.

Ofsted reports

You can have a look at the Ofsted inspection report for your chosen nursery or preschool on Ofsted’s website.

Somerset Family Information Direct

Somerset Family Information Direct (SFID) can provide information on nurseries, pre-schools, childminders, out of school clubs, play schemes, leisure activities and more in your area. To find out more email or visit our Somerset’s Local Offer pages.

Last reviewed: March 19, 2024 by Helly

Next review due: September 19, 2024

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