Free early education for 3 and 4 year olds - 30 hours

All 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 570 universal hours of free early education per year (15 hours a week).

However, if eligible, some children are entitled to an additional 570 hours of free early education for the year (an additional 15 hours a week, so 30 hours a week in total).

These hours can be used in many different ways, such as 30 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year, or fewer hours per week for more than 38 weeks of the year. Your chosen provider will have more information about what they can offer you.

To be eligible for the additional hours:

  • You, and any partner, must each expect to earn (on average) at least £120 a week (equal to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage)
  • If you, or your partner, are on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or you're unable to work because you are disabled or have caring responsibilities, you could still be eligible

You can't get the additional hours of free early education if you, or your partner, expect to earn £100,000 or more.

When do the free hours start?

We recommend that you apply in advance as the process to provide a validity code for the additional hours can take up to three weeks, particularly if you are self-employed.

Once you have a code to give your chosen early education provider, you can start using your free hours from the beginning of the term following your child's third birthday. Term dates are fixed and are 1 April, 1 September and 1 January. If you receive your code after these cut off dates, then you will have to wait until the following term to use your free hours.

When can my child have a free place?

Children who are born between Will have a free place from
1 January and 31 March April
1 April and 31 August September
1 September and 31 December January

How do I apply for a place?

Apply for 30 hours via the government's Childcare Choices website

If you are eligible you will be given a DfE eligibility reference number (also known as a DERN code) to enter on to your parent declaration form. This includes giving your consent for the code and your details to be validated. If you do not give your consent, your code cannot be validated and you cannot take up your additional hours.

What happens if I stop being eligible?

Your child will enter the 'grace period' when you stop meeting the eligibility criteria. We will be able to access information about whether or not your child is in the grace period and will let your provider know. Your provider will then be able to tell you when the grace period will end and when your child will stop receiving their additional 15 hours.

In exceptional circumstances, we might extend the grace period and allow you to receive your free hours for longer. This would be to support stability or continuity for a child experiencing difficult circumstances, such as the death of a parent or domestic violence. If this is the case then your provider will apply to Herefordshire Council on your behalf and let you know whether or not your grace period can be extended.

For further information please see the Early Years Alliance 30 hours free early education FAQs.