Manchester City Council

Children & childcare Help with childcare costs

Free places if your child is three or four

What is Early Education?

Early Education is education that is provided for children up to the age of five.  It gives children the chance to learn and play in a safe and structured environment.   All three and four year olds are entitled to receive 15 hours of early education free of charge, from the term after they become three.  There are three terms each year, and they start in January, April and September.

The free entitlement of 15 hours a week should be delivered as flexibly as possible by providers.  It is normally spread over 38 weeks per year (12 weeks in the January term and 13 weeks in each of the April and September terms). However, where a child is claiming fewer than 15 hours per week, the entitlement can be spread over more weeks.  (see table below).

Where can my child receive their free hours?

Childcare providers who have passed an Ofsted inspection and who have agreed to abide by certain terms and conditions can offer free early education places.

These include:

  • Local authority nursery and reception classes within a primary school
  • Local authority nursery schools
  • Local authority children centres and play centres
  • Private day nurseries
  • Pre-schools and playgroups;
  • Independent schools
  • Accredited childminders who are part of an Approved Childminder Network
  • Sure Start Children's Centres and play centres

When does my child become eligible?

The table below shows when your child will become eligible for their free early education place.

If your child is born between: They are eligible for a free place from:
1 April and 31 August 1 September following their third birthday until statutory school age
1 September and 31 December 1 January following their third birthday until statutory school age
1 January and 31 March 1 April following their third birthday until statutory school age

How do I claim my free hours?

Each term, Manchester City Council will give your childcare provider a headcount date and your child needs to be registered with the childcare provider by this date. 

The headcount dates for 2013-14 are: 
Autumn term (September - December) - Thursday 3 October 2013
Spring term (January - March) - Thursday 16 January 2014
Summer term (April - July) - to be confirmed

If your child leaves the childcare provider before the headcount date or starts after the headcount date, they may have to wait until the start of the next term before they can access a free place.   

Your childcare provider will have a claim form they will complete and you will be given a Parental Certification Form (PCF) which they can help you to complete.  

You will also be asked to show your provider proof of your child's date of birth.  

The funding is given to the provider for the term and if your child leaves before the end of term, the funding may not follow your child.   This could mean that your child would have to wait until the start of the next term to access a free place at a different setting.

Is the early education entitlement completely free?

Yes it is completely free and you should not be charged any fees in relation to your free place.  However Providers may charge an additional amount for lunches, snacks or other facilities they provide.  If you do not want to pay for meals you should be provided with the option on bringing a packed lunch. 

What if I require more than 15 hours each week?

If you work or have other commitments, which means your child needs more time in early education, then you can pay for any additional hours.  Playgroups often only open for a few hours per day and may not be able to offer you additional hours but you could pay for a childminder to drop off or pick up your child from the setting.  

Can I claim the funding when using more than one provider?

Yes, you can choose to take up the 15 hours at more than one provider, regardless of whether they are in the private, voluntary or independent sector. So, for example, you could have five hours with one provider in the voluntary sector and ten hours with a school.

Will getting the free hours affect tax credits or benefits?

No but you cannot claim the childcare element of working tax credits for the childcare funded by the Early Education entitlement.

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