Early education – free entitlement

Information for parents/carers on free entitlement to early years education and childcare for three to four-year-olds (and eligible two-year-olds) in Northumberland.

On this page you will find information about the free entitlement to early years education for children aged three to four in Northumberland and eligible two-year-olds.

All three and four-year-olds are entitled to free high-quality early education, starting in the term after a child’s third birthday until compulsory school age.

The current free entitlement is 15 hours a week (570 hours a year) for 38 weeks of the year. Starting September 2017, eligible families will be able to claim an additional 15 hours free childcare per week, taking their entitlement to 30 hours free childcare a week for 38 weeks of the year (1140 hours a year).

Parents/carers of two-year-olds who meet a range of criteria are entitled to the same amount of free high-quality early years education or childcare, from the term after a child’s second birthday until the end of the term in which they are three.

Interested? Click here to download and read our printable guide, which covers both schemes for parents.

Got questions? Contact us direct via freephone: 0800 023 4440 or read on to find out more.
The Early Years Pupil Premium
Extra funding for your Early Years provider to further enhance the early years provision for your child –supporting their development, learning and care
From April 2015, nurseries, schools, childminders and other childcare providers have been able to claim extra funding through the Early Years Pupil Premium to support children’s development, learning and care.
The Early Years Pupil Premium provides an extra 53 pence per hour for three and four year old children whose parents are eligible. This means an extra £302 a year for each child taking up the full 570 hours funded entitlement to early education.  This additional money could make a significant difference to childcare providers.
The extra funding can be used  in any way a childcare provider chooses to improve the quality of the early years education provided. This could include for example:
  • additional training for our staff on early language
  •  investing in partnership working with colleagues in the area to further expertise
  • supporting staff in working on specialised areas such as speech and language.
It is well documented that high quality early education can influence how well a child does at both primary and secondary school so childcare providers want to make the most of this additional funding. You may be aware if you have older children that a pupil premium has been available for school age children and it has proved to have given a real boost to the children receiving the funding. Childcare providers want to do the same for early years children entitled to this funding.
Is my child eligible for the Early Years Pupil Premium?
Your child may be eligible for the EYPP if you receive any of these benefits:
• Income Support
• Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
• Income-related Employment & Support Allowance
• Universal Credit
• Support from NASS (National Asylum Support Service) under part 6 of
the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
• The guarantee element of State Pension Credit
• Child Tax Credit (provided that you are not also entitled to Working Tax
Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190*)
• Working Tax Credit run-on
*current figure at the time of printing.
You may also get early years pupil premium if your child is currently being looked after by a local authority in England or Wales or if your child has left care in England or Wales through:

• Adoption
• Special guardianship order
• A child's arrangement order
If you have any questions, please speak to your childcare provider.
If you have any questions please speak to your childcare provider. Any information you share will be completely confidential. This will not affect any benefits you receive.

**Apply here for 30 hours**


If you experience any problems with the application process please contact childcareservice.localgov@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk or call the helpline 0300 123 4097

What is the extra funding for?

The extra funding is to:

  • support working parents to manage the cost of childcare

  • support parents into work

  • allow parents to increase their hours, should they wish to

How will parents access this funding?
Parents will be able to access the funding through early years providers. This includes:

  • childminders

  • group settings

  • out of school providers

  • school run early years provision

How will parents apply for a 30 hour place place?
Parents will be able to apply for both Tax-Free Childcare and the 30 hours’ free childcare through the Childcare Service being developed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). This joint online application system will provide a simple and straightforward way for working parents to access the schemes and will avoid the need to provide the same information twice. This system is currently being developed and trialled by HMRC and DfE.

What is Tax Free Childcare?
As part of the Governments childcare reforms from early 2017 working parents with children under 12 (under 17 for disabled children) can set up an online childcare account to pay their childcare providers directly. For every £8 parents pay in, the Government will add £2, up to a maximum contribution of £2,000 per child, per year (£4,000 per year for disabled children).To qualify, parents must be in work and each expecting to earn at least £115 a week and not more than £100,000 per year. Tax-Free Childcare will be delivered by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Eligibility Criteria - 30 hours free childcare
The extended free childcare entitlement will be available to parents/carers of three- and four-year-olds in from September 2017 where:

  • Both parents are working (or sole parent in a lone parent family) & each parent/carer earns on average:

    • a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage (NMW) (for under 25 yr olds) or national living wage (NLW) (if over 25 yrs old), and

    • less than £100,000 per year


  • Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave or statutory sick pay, or

  • One parent is employed & the other parent has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring, or

  • One parent is employed & one parent is disabled or incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits.

Please note

  • You do not need to work 16 hours per week, but your earnings must equal at least 16 hours work at minimum wage / national living wage. This equates to a minimum income requirement for a parent/carer over the age of 25 of £115.20 a week, or for 21-24 year olds of £107.20 a week.

  • A parent/carer will be eligible if they expect (on average) to earn this amount over the coming three months:

  • For example, for a parent/carer who is on a zero-hours contract, they will qualify if on average they work two weeks out of every three, and when they are working they get 25 hours of work at the minimum wage.

  • ‘Parent’ means a person who has parental responsibility for the child. In cases where a parent has remarried or is living with a partner, the step-parent or partner must also meet the earning threshold.

  • Foster carers are only eligible for the extended entitlement for their own children (if they meet the criteria); they are not eligible for children that they foster.

Flexibility - How you can take up the extended entitlement

If you are eligible for the extended entitlement, you can take up to 1140 hours free childcare across the year. This can be taken term time only or ‘stretched’ across the year, as follows:

  • Up to 30 hours per week across 38 weeks per year or (term time offer)

  • Up to 21.92 hours per week across up to 52 weeks of the year (stretched offer).

Not all providers may be able to offer the stretched offer, the full 30 hours per week or the particular pattern of provision that you require however, you can split your entitlement across more than one provider.

You will be able to access your free childcare:

  • between 6am and 8pm

  • up to a maximum of 10 free hours per day, 30 hours per week

  • across a maximum of 2  providers in a day and 3 providers annually

Tax Free Childcare Information

Childcare Choices
The new Childcare Choices
website provides information on the new and existing Government childcare offers:www.childcarechoices.gov.uk.

Members of Northumberland County Council’s Early Years Team got together recently with partners and service users to discuss the 30-hour free childcare pilot and what it means to their role,  families and businesses.


The discussion - which focussed on experiences so far, lessons learnt and what the extended entitlement means to their role - was recorded as a podcast, as part of the County Council’s commitment to feedback on progress in order to support others to be ready for the national roll-out of the scheme in 2017.


Taking part in the discussion was:

Eve Sinclair - Early Years Sustainability Officer

Katie Watson - Early Years Adviser

Carol - A Grandmother of a child using 30 hour provision

Emma Potts - Head Teacher of Prudhoe Adderlane First School

Di Richardson - Owner of Diandjims Nursery in Prudhoe and Hexham


To listen to the full discussion, please click here: https://soundcloud.com/user-320432423/northumberland-county-council-podcasts-30-hour-pilot

Frequently asked questions about free early years education/childcare for parents & carers.

Can’t find the answer to your question?
If you live in Northumberland and your child is two, click here to check they meet the eligibility for free entitlement criteria.

If you’re still unsure, get in touch with us. We can confirm if you will get childcare in the school term that your child turns two (not before): Note: all three and four-year-olds in England are eligible for the free entitlement to early education (the minimum of 15 hours).
Are you eligible for free childcare? See above and then follow these steps: Please note: Some areas of Northumberland have a limited number of childcare places. Therefore, establishing eligibility does not automatically guarantee a place.
We must take reasonable steps to ensure a free, part-time early education place is available for every child whose parents want one.

We have maintained nursery classes at some schools and also work with other childcare and early years education providers.

Access the Childcare Directory here
There are plenty of childcare options available for free as part of the offer including:
  • nurseries
  • playgroups
  • pre-school
  • childminders
Take your pick from our list of approved childcare providers.

Access the Childcare Directory here 

Please note: Some areas of Northumberland have a limited number of childcare places. Therefore, establishing eligibility does not automatically guarantee a place.
Please see our Childcare Directory for a list of approved providers 
There are other providers of early education in the private, voluntary and independent sector, for example:
  • day nurseries
  • pre-school playgroups
  • children’s centres
  • some childminders who have recently been approved
If you wish your child to be admitted to one of these settings, you should contact the manager/leader.
We want to help you to make an informed choice about your child’s early education entitlement, to explain the funding process and what to expect in Northumberland. Feel free to contact us direct via freephone: 0800 0234440.

You can also contact your:
Here you will find contact details for the Northumberland families information service team.

For further information on the early years entitlement scheme and how we can help you with all your childcare needs, please get in touch: Northumberland Families Information Service
County Hall
NE61 2EF