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Free Early Years Entitlement

The Free Early Years Entitlement offers free places to children from the term following their 3rd birthday until they reach compulsory school age. If you are already offering places, or are interested in doing so, this page details the most frequently asked questions. All guidance and forms referred to are available by visiting our Free Early Years Entitlement Resources page.


Provider Portal


Spring Term 2022 Funding Period

Headcount Day:  Thursday, 20th January 2022

The table below shows the weeks you will be funded for this funding period.

Funding Week Week Commencing
Week 1 10/01/2022
Week 2 17/01/2022
Week 3 24/01/2022
Week 4 31/01/2022
Week 5 07/02/2022
Week 6 14/02/2022
Week 7 28/02/2022
Week 8 07/03/2022
Week 9 14/03/2022
Week 10 21/03/2022
Week 11 28/03/2022


If you need to view the current funding timetable, you can download it here:  Timetable of Financial Year 2021-22 Academic Year 2021-22


What is a free place?

Every child, regardless of their background or family circumstances, is entitled to a total of 570 hours of free early years education from the term after they turn 3.

This can be taken to fit in with school terms, which means 15 hours per week for 38 weeks. Or, if it suits your business, it can be taken it in different ways.


When can a child get a free place?

A child can have their place from the term after they turn 3. The chart shows you the cut-off dates for each term:

If a child is born between:

They will get their free place:

1st January and 31st March Summer term (in April)
1st April and 31st August Autumn term (in September)
1st September and 31st December Spring term (in January)


Can I provide a free place?

If you are a registered childcare setting in Walsall who is rated by Ofsted as ‘satisfactory / requires improvement’ or higher, then you maybe able to provide the free places.


How flexibly can a child take this place?

The government says the 15 hours should be given as flexibly as possible, but this is down to an individual setting to decide just how flexible they can be within the limits of their business. However, if a parent wants it, a child can take it in 1 of 2 ways:

  • 3 hours a day, spread over 5 days;
  • 5 hours a day, spread over 3 days.

Other than this, you would need to establish how flexibly you can provide a place and discuss these options with the parent / carer. However, there are restrictions to how flexibly a child can have their place:

  • A session must be not more than 10 hours;
  • Sessions have to take place between 06:00-20:00;
  • The full 15 hours can only be taken over a minimum of 2 days;
  • If a child only attends 1 day, the maximum number of hours they can get is 10;
  • You can spread the hours over more than 38 weeks by having less than 15 hours a week.


A child is going to a school nursery. Can they claim their place at my setting?

Not unless they're eligible for 30 hours. School nurseries offer the same free place as private settings. A child can get a maximum of 15 hours a week during term time. If the school nursery offers less than 15 hours, they may be able to get the additional hours at your setting.


Can I charge parents?

No. The Local Code of Practice states “The free entitlement must be entirely free at the point of delivery. Parents and carers cannot be charged for any part of the Free Entitlement either directly or indirectly...you must not charge top-up fees...(and) you may not charge registration fees as a condition of accessing a free place”.

You may charge for anything above the free entitlement, such as a child attending for more than their entitlement, or any extra services, such as meals. “However parents are not required to accept the additional services as a condition of accessing the free entitlement” (Local Code of Practice)


How does the claim systems work?

Below is a brief overview of the process for claiming the payment of a free place:

Each term, headcount information is collected via the Provider Portal.  This needs to be submitted on or before the termly headcount day.  This is normally the third Thursday in January, the third Thursday in May and the first Thursday in October.  On the Portal, you will details all of the eligible children accessing the free entitlement at your setting, including the hours they attend.  Once this information has been accepted and checked, payments will be issued directly to your bank account or by cheque.


How much will I get for a place?

From April 2021 you will receive £4.56 per hour for all provider types.


What does a parent have to do?

You will need to print off a confirmation of attendance form for every funded 3 & 4 year old child in your setting and ensure the parent or carer completes it.  Checking of the forms will be carried out when you are audited by the School Ready Improvement Team.  You can print the form here.


Where can I find out more about a place?

Further information can be found by visiting our Free Early Years Entitlement Resources page. 


updated 14/01/2022