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Nottinghamshire County Council - Proud of our past, ambitious for our future

Free Nursery and Early Years Places

If you have a young child they may be entitled to a free nursery or early years place.

The criteria for eligibility are different if your child is two years old or if they are three or four years old.

Free Places for Two Year-Olds

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If your child is eligible you can apply online.

Early Years and Childcare Services
Children, families and cultural services
County Hall
West Bridgford

Your two year-old child may qualify for a free early years place if:

  • your home address is in Nottinghamshire, and
  • they are classed as a "looked after child" (A "looked after child" is a child who is (a) in the care of a local authority, or (b) being provided with accommodation by a local authority in the exercise of their social services function. The term "looked after child" would include a child who was previously "looked after" but, immediately thereafter, became subject to an adoption, resident or special guardianship order) 
  • have left care through special guardianship or an adoption or residence order

or you receive one of the following benefits: 

  • income support
  • income-based jobseeker's allowance
  • income-related employment support allowance
  • support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • guarantee element of state pension credit
  • child tax credit and also that your  household’s yearly income does not exceed £16,190 (as assessed by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs)
  • you receive Working Tax Credits and your household’s gross annual earnings are no more than £16,190 as above
  • your child receives Disability Living Allowance

  • your child has an Education Health and Care plan.

If they are 2 between:

  • 1 September and 31 December – Apply between September and December, eligible from January (spring term)  
  • 1 January and 31 March – Apply between January and March eligible from April (summer term) 
  • 1 April and 31 August – Apply between April and August eligible from September (autumn term) 

Places are available for up to 15 hours per week for 38 weeks per year (term time only).  The places are available in OFSTED rated good or outstanding providers on the Nottinghamshire Directory or with approved childminders.

Childcare in Nottinghamshire

List of approved Childminders rated Good or Outstanding [PDF]

2 year old funding factsheet [PDF]

Free Places for Three and Four Year Olds

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Early Years and Childcare Services
Children, families and cultural services
County Hall
West Bridgford

All three and four year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free nursery education for 38 weeks of the year. This applies until they reach compulsory school age (the term following their fifth birthday). Free early education places are available at a range of early years settings including nursery schools and classes, children's centres, day nurseries, play groups and pre-schools and childminders.


The free early years entitlement can be taken flexibly within the following limits:


  • The full 15 hours have to be taken over at least two days per week and a maximum of five days per week

  • A minimum of 2.5 hours can be taken in one day

  • A maximum of 10 hours can be taken in one day


You can take the free entitlement at up to two providers. The basic offering is three hours over five days a week, or five hours over three days a week, but many providers will allow you to take the provision flexibly, in a pattern that meets your needs. For example, your child could have nine hours at a nursery or reception class and six hours with a playgroup, day nursery, childminder or independent school over the course of two days or more.


What is my child entitled to?


All 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free early learning and care, over 38 weeks of the year.


  • Children who are three in January, February or March can have their free place from the start of the summer term.

  • Children who are three in April, May, June, July or August can have their free place from the start of the autumn term.

  • Children who are three in September, October, November or December can have their free place from the start of the spring term.

Details of term dates for Nottinghamshire.


Who provides early years education?


Your child may go to any early years setting which is included in the Nottinghamshire Directory of Providers and has a place available. This includes many:


  • day nurseries

  • independent schools

  • nursery centres

  • nursery units in schools

  • pre-schools or playgroups

  • schools with pre-school groups

  • childminders part of an approved network

  • sure start children's centres.


Finding a place


Contact us or look on our childcare page for help with finding a place. You may decide to visit several providers to help you choose the right setting for your child. Once you have chosen where you would like your child to go, check that there is a place available, and confirm the start date and the fact that you would like to claim your free early years entitlement. The provider will give you a form to complete, so that they can claim the funding for your child's place. This will be paid directly to the provider.


Each term, providers have a deadline for claiming this funding. The local authority may not be able to fund a child who has not taken up a free entitlement place by this date. Funding is for a minimum of half a term; if your child moves to another provider during a term then you need to inform the new provider as soon as possible, to see if a free early years entitlement place is available.


Please note that if your child attends a part-time place in a school nursery, reception class or nursery class, then the hours attended will be counted as part of your child’s entitlement.


Additional charges  


If meals or snacks are included as part of your free entitlement hours, your provider will not charge you for these. Providers are only permitted to charge for meals, snacks or optional extras as long as they are not part of your free entitlement hours.

If you take more than 15 hours per week, or for longer than 38 weeks per year, there will be a charge from the provider for these additional hours. Please check with your provider for full details of any additional charges.


Extra support for children with special educational needs


The Local Authority is committed to supporting early years and childcare providers to work towards an inclusive approach and to meet the individual needs of all children.

Your provider can apply for inclusion funding to help with extra staff costs of supporting children with additional needs. For more information, speak to your provisions manager or special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO). The provider will be able to get information from the Pre-school Learning Alliance or from their Early Years Specialist Teacher.

We are working to make sure that there are enough high-quality early years education places in the county.


More information

You can find out more information about how the scheme works by downloading this guide from the Department for Education [PDF]

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