Early Years Education (EYE) funding for eligible 2 year olds and all 3 and 4 year olds

Eligible families of two year olds and all three and four year olds are entitled to free Early Years Education (EYE)

Free Early Years Education places are available in Ofsted registered school nursery classes, state or private nursery schools (including independent schools), day nurseries, playgroups or pre-schools and childminders. They need to be approved by the local authority to deliver EYE.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets standards for the learning, development and care of your child from birth to 5 years old in order to deliver Early Years Education.

Local authorities follow the Department for Education's (DfE) Early education and childcare statutory guidance to deliver the free Early Years Education for two, three and four year olds.

Hampshire County Council uses this guidance to develop the Early Years Education Payment Funding Terms and Conditions which all childcare providers who deliver Early Years Education in Hampshire are required to comply with.


Your child’s entitlement to the free Early Years Education

The entitlement to free Early Years Education (EYE) starts in the funding period which follows your child’s third birthday (or second birthday if the family is eligible). Children become entitled on 1 January, 1 April and 1 September.

When is your child's birthday? Your child becomes eligible for funding Period when funding starts
1 January – 31 March (Spring) From 1 April Summer
1 April – 31 August (Summer) From 1 September Autumn
1 September – 31 December (Autumn) From 1 January Spring

Where the Easter holiday falls has no bearing regarding entitlement or when the funding starts.

Free Early Year Education will stop at a childcare provider when your child starts receiving education at school, even if it is on a part time basis or if the school has phased start dates.

More information about Starting School in Hampshire

Early years education funding ceases:

Child starts school in the period EYE eligibility ends Parents responsible for funding childcare
1 September to 31 December 31 August From 1 September

Early Years Education funding is only available up to statutory school age where you may have applied for a deferred or decelerated place and stops at the end of the funded period of your child's fifth birthday.

If you would like your child to continue attending their childcare provision even though they are of school age (deferment) then please see ‘Applying for a reception place’ for further information, including details regarding 'deceleration', as a result of deferment.

Children with a 5th birthday between: Early Years Education funding stops: Parents responsible for funding a nursery or preschool place:
1 September and 31 December On 31 December From 1 January
1 January and 31 March On 31 March From 1 April
1 April and 31 August On 31 August From 1 September

A place in a school nursery does not guarantee admission to school and parents must apply for a place at the school if they want their child to transfer to the reception class.

How much free Early Years Education is my child entitled to?

If your child is aged:

they are entitled to access up to 15 hours a week over 38 weeks of free Early Years Education. This is a total of 570 hours, which can also be taken over more weeks with less hours. The free entitlement starts the funding period after your child becomes age eligible and continues until they start school.

For 3 and 4 years olds, this is called the 'universal' entitlement. Eligible working parents of 3 and 4 year olds who are accessing their universal entitlement can also apply for the ‘extended’ entitlement of a further 15 hours a week over 38 weeks (’30 hours childcare’).

How free Early Years Education hours is delivered

Parents can use more than one approved childcare provider for their child to access their free hours.

Free Early Years Education can be offered flexibly by childcare providers but in any one day:

  • no session to be longer than 10 hours
  • no minimum session length (subject to the requirements of registration on the Ofsted Early Years Register)
  • no sessions to be before 6am or after 8pm
“Standard” and “Stretched” Early Years Education

The “standard” delivery for Early Years Education is up to 15 hours a week for 38 weeks, totalling 570 hours for your child’s eligible funding year.

For parents who would benefit from their child attending their Early Years Education over more than 38 weeks some childcare providers are able to offer these free hours over a “stretched” period of up to 52 weeks.

The table below explains how “stretched” delivery could work. It is possible for your child to have “standard” hours with one childcare provider and “stretched” hours with another as long as the total amount of hours does not exceed 570 in your child's eligible funding year.

Funding period Funding period Funding period Standard Offer Standard Offer Stretched Offer Stretched offer
Period name Period start Period end Max weeks Max hours Max weeks Max hours
Autumn 1 Sept 31 Dec 14 195 16 176
Spring 1 Jan 31 March 12 180 13 143
Summer 1 April 31 August 12 195 22 242 + 9 additional hours
Totals     38 570 51 570

It is not possible to change the number of free hours accessed at one (or more) childcare provider during the funding period until the next period starts.


Apply for free Early Years Education

You will need to talk to the childcare provider that you are currently using (or intend to use) for your child’s free Early Years Education.

The childcare provider will check when your child will become eligible. If your child is eligible, you will be asked to complete an Early Years Education (EYE) Parent Declaration Form.

Your provider will then claim funding for your child's place from Hampshire County Council. The funding will go to the childcare provider direct.

The DfE states that Early Years Education places paid for by the local authority must be delivered completely free of charge to parents. This means that parents cannot be charged, either directly or indirectly where they are only requesting the free hours. 

Where parents require their children to access additional services; for example lunch or more hours than the free entitlement, the provider will have terms and conditions relating to the payment of these additional services. This should be discussed before your child takes up a place so that you are clear about how any additional fees and charges are applied.

Further information and translations

Search for childcare services

Search for childcare services for children with additional needs (Local Offer)

Accessing 2, 3 and 4 Year Old EYE Funding Flowchart

Government’s Childcare Choices

Translated information for parents - early years education for 2, 3 and 4 Year Olds:












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