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Early Learning Funding Information


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.

Check out your options for help with paying for childcare on the Childcare Choices webpage.

Childcare Choices (Polskie)  Childcare Choices (PDF 328KB)
(Courtesy of Somerset County Council) 

When can my child get funding?

All 3 and 4-year-olds in England are entitled to 570 hours of free early years education. You can start claiming the term after your child turns 3. The date you can claim will depend on when their birthday is.

Some 2-year-olds are also eligible. This is dependent on meeting certain criteria. Eligible 2-year-olds can take up a place the term after their 2nd birthday.

Many children from working families may also be eligible for the 30 hour funding offer.  Please see the section on 30 Hour Funded Early Education/Childcare for details.

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, you will need to pay until your child is eligible for the funding, unless your child is eligible for a funded 2 year old place.

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 places are usually judged as good or outstanding. Some settings with less than good or outstanding may be able to offer sessions.

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.

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:

  • Sessions cannot be longer than 10 hours
  • Sessions cannot be shorter than 2.5 hours
  • Sessions cannot be taken before 7am or after 7pm

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.

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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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