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.
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 April - 31 August||Autumn term
(1 September - 31 December)
|1 September - 31 December||Spring term
(1 January - 31 March)
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.
Your 2-year-old can get free early education and childcare if you live in England and get one of the following benefits:
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
- Universal Credit – if you and your partner have a combined income from work of £15,400 or less a year, after tax
- the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
- support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
- the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
You can check your child's eligibility for the above criteria online.
If your family meets any of the criteria below, please contact the Family Information Service team on 023 8083 3014 to discuss eligibility:
- have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan
- attract Disability Living Allowance
- the child is looked after by their local authority
- the child has left care through special guardianship or through an adoption or residence order.
New criteria from September 2019:
- Children of Zambrano Carers
- Children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private/family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
- Children of a subset of failed asylum seekers supported under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
If you’re eligible the free early education and childcare:
- must be with an approved childcare provider
- starts from the term after your child’s 2nd birthday
Contact your childcare provider or or contact the Family Information Service on 023 8083 3014 at local rate to find out more.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.