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2 Year Old Funding: 15 hour offer

Funded early education sessions are available for children under 5 in Southampton. They are available from the term after your child turns three, although some funding is available for places for two-year-olds who meet the eligibility criteria listed in the relevant section below.

The section below relates to funding for 2 year olds.  For information about 3 and 4 year old funding and the 30 hour offer please see the 3 & 4 Year Old Funding: 15 and 30 hour offers section.

When can my child get funding?

Some 2-year-olds are eligible to 570 hours of free early years education.  This is dependent on meeting certain criteria.  Eligible 2-year-olds can take up a place the term after their 2nd birthday. (See the eligibility criteria in the next section below).

Child's birthday When your child can start Two-year-old funding eligibility check can be done from
1 January - 31 March Summer term
(1 April - 31 August)
1 January
1 April - 31 August Autumn term
(1 September - 31 December)
1 April
1 September - 31 December Spring term
(1 January - 31 March)
1 September

If you would like your child to attend a pre-school or other provider at 2 years 9 months and you are not eligible for a funded 2 year old place, you will need to pay until your child is eligible for the 3 and 4 year old funding.  Free 3 and 4 year old funding can be taken from the term after your child's 3rd birthday.

What are the eligibility criteria for 2 year old funding?

Your 2-year-old can get free early education and childcare if you meet the eligibility criteria.

You can check your child's eligibility online.

Contact your childcare provider or or contact the Family Information Service ( to find out more.

Will the 2-year-old funding stop when my child turns 3?

Your child will continue to receive 2-year-old funding until the term after their third birthday. Your child will then become entitled to the free early years education under the 3 and 4-year-old offer.

Please chat to your provider if you would like your child to continue with them. In most instances it is helpful for your child to continue their early education with the same provider as they will have built up a good relationship with you and your child.

Where can my child take up their early education place?

The free early education and childcare can be taken in a variety of settings in Southampton:

  • school nursery class
  • nurseries or pre-schools on school sites
  • independent schools
  • nurseries or pre-schools in Children’s Centres
  • day nurseries
  • pre-schools
  • childminders (childminders cannot be funded for a child to whom they are related)

All settings that offer nursery education must be registered with Ofsted. Providers of funded early education for 2 year olds must usually be judged by Ofsted as good or outstanding. 

You can use your entitlement at more than one provider, for example using a group provider and a childminder. We strongly recommend that you consider the impact on continuity of care for children when enabling children to take up their early education place at more than one provider, as some children find this very unsettling.

Settings may be run by private, voluntary, independent or maintained providers.

Where are the settings that offer funded places in Southampton?   Each setting record will show whether they offer 2 year old funding, 3 and 4 year old funding, or both. 

How many hours of early education can my child have?

Your child is entitled to 570 hours of early education.

This can be used across a minimum of 38 weeks, and a maximum of 15 hours per week. For many children this will mean 3 hours a day during school term times.

You can 'stretch' your child's entitlement by taking fewer hours a week over more weeks of the year, where the provider has capacity to offer this.

The following standards apply:

  • no session to be longer than 10 hours
  • no minimum session length (subject to the requirements of registration on the Ofsted Early Years Register)
  • not before 6.00am or after 8.00pm
  • a maximum of two sites in a single day

You will need to speak to your chosen provider about the availability and times of sessions available.

Does my child have to take up their funded hours of education?

Your child does not legally have to attend any type of education until the term after their 5th birthday. However, this is a very important stage for your child as it helps get them ready for school as well as preparing them for their future learning and successes.

From when your child is born up until the age of 5, their early years experience should be happy, active, exciting, fun and secure, and support their development, care and learning needs. Attending an early years setting will ensure that you and your child are supported during this important period.

You can choose to use only part of your entitlement e.g. 2 sessions per week.

Will I have to pay anything towards my child's place?

Funding is paid directly to the childcare provider. You will be asked by the provider to complete a declaration form. If you need to pay fees for the additional services provided (for example, if a nursery is looking after your child for more than 15 hours in a week, or for lunch), the funding will be passed to you as a saving on your fees.

Your childcare provider or the Family Information Service can give you more information about any additional fees and charges which may be payable.

Where can I get information to help me choose?

To get a place for your child, you will need to find a setting suitable for you and your child. You can search this directory for settings, or contact the Family Information Service on  023 8083 3014.

Golden Ticket Postcard

Something Free for you and your 2 year old? If you are eligible for Free Nursery Education Funding for your 2 year old (based on financial criteria), you will automatically receive a Golden Ticket postcard from Southampton City Council.  This postcard will have a unique reference code starting 'GT' on the flip side.  You should give this code to the childcare provider of your choice.  

I've heard about the 30 hour offer. Can my 2 year old get this?

30 Hours Funded Early Education/Childcare is for children aged 3 and 4 where all parents in the family are in work.  Please see the section on 30 Hour Funded Early Education/Childcare for details.

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Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this directory, we do not accept any responsibility or liability for any errors that have occurred. It is recommended that you always check with providers that their service or organisation meets your requirements. We offer an impartial service and we cannot recommend or endorse any providers listed.

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