Free early learning for 3 & 4 year olds

Universal and extended entitlement

In Slough, early years education is available for children who have not yet started school. By law children must attend school from the term after their fifth birthday. Many schools in Slough admit children earlier. For further information please visit the school admissions page

Slough Borough Council is committed to providing good early years services for children and part-time places are available for all children the term after their third birthday.

What type of free early years places are available?

Parents can choose from a range of providers who are approved by Slough Early Years Service. These include:

  • childminders
  • children’s centres
  • day nurseries
  • nursery classes in schools
  • nursery schools
  • pre-schools and playgroups
  • private and independent nursery schools.

You can find early years education providers from the Slough Services Guide.

What is the universal entitlement?

From the beginning of the term after your child’s third birthday your child is entitled to 570 hours a year of free flexible childcare provision.  This can be taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but families can ask to have the hours stretched over more weeks and take less than 15 hours each week.  Providers will offer sessions that fit in with their operational needs, be approved by Slough Early Years Service and inspected by Ofsted.

For more information on available childcare sessions, speak to the setting of your choice who will be happy to assist.

When will my child become eligible for the universal entitlement?

Your child is eligible from the term after their third birthday.  Terms start in January, April or September.  For example, if a child reaches their third birthday on the 6th July, they will be eligible from the September of that year.

What is the extended / 30 hours of free childcare offer?

From 1st September 2017, the government is introducing an additional 570 hours per year of free childcare for working families as part of the Childcare Act 2016.

The aim is to provide financial help for working families and allow more parents to work if they want to.

Who is eligible for the extended entitlement?

You are eligible if both parents or carers (or the sole parent in a one parent family) work and earn:

  • more than £107 per week if you are under 24 years old, but no more than £100,000 per year
  • more than £120 per week if you are over 25 years old but no more than £100,000 per year

People who are self employed or on zero hour contracts will be required to make a financial statement of earnings when they apply.

If your circumstances change, for example if your income drops below the threshold or you lose your job the government will give you a short "grace period" to give you time to find a new job and start earning at least the minimum amount again.  If you do not find a new job within the grace period, your eligibility for 30 hours of free childcare will cease.

When will a child become eligible for the extended entitlement?

You will be eligible to claim the extended entitlement at the same time as the universal offer (see above) or the term after you have completed the application and been awarded eligibility.

How does the extended entitlement work?

The additional 570 hours per year should be flexible.  The term "30 free hours a week" is based on a childcare provider offering the free entitlement over 38 weeks of the year (term time only).  The actual universal and extended entitlement is for 1140 hours per year and you can take this in a wide variety of ways.  Some examples include:

  • 30 free hours per week over 38 weeks (term time only)
  • 24 free hours per week over 47.5 weeks (stretched offer)
  • 22.35 free hours per week over 51 weeks (stretched offer)

The hours can be taken flexibly during the day but there are the following restrictions:

  • A maximum of 10 hours childcare per day, 30 hours per week
  • The free hours will be available between 6am and 8pm each day
  • There is no minimum number of hours per day
  • Free childcare can be taken with a maximum of 2 childcare providers per day

Other combinations of childcare providers can be used at different points during the year for example, using a holiday club in the school holidays.

How can parents apply for the extended / 30 hours of free childcare offer?

You must apply for your extended entitlement through an online eligibility checking system.  This is being developed by HMRC and will be rolled out from the end of April 2017.

The checking system will assess your entitlement and if you are eligible it will give you an Eligibility Reference Number.  You can take this number to your chosen childcare provider who will then also validate the code using an online service.

You are required to reconfirm your eligibility on a termly basis.  Once your reference number has been activated online, HMRC will notify you on the need to reconfirm and will provide mechanisms for reconfirmation.  It is your responsibility to ensure you complete the reconfirmation check online.

How do I choose a place for my child?

You do not have to send your child to school until they reach compulsory school age. If you do want your child to attend a setting you should carefully consider what type of provision would best suit your child. To help you decide what is best for your child, visit the setting and look at their information, including Ofsted inspection reports on DirectGov schools finder.

Having considered what would suit your child, you should contact the setting directly for more information on how to apply for a place.

There is a range of high quality providers who can offer funded early years education and childcare to meet the needs of individual children.  This includes Childminders, Private Day Nurseries, Pre-schools, school nursery classes and nurseries in Children's Centres.

Some providers may choose not to offer 30 hours of childcare, especially if they do not have the resource to extend their service.  However, they can work in partnership with other providers so that parents can access their 30 hour funding between two different providers in a day.  This can include providers outside of Slough.

Where can I get information about childcare providers?

You can contact Slough's Family Information Service on 01753 476589 or FIS@scstrust.co.uk.