Free Early Education and Childcare

The benefits of a good early education

Children like to explore the world around them, play with other children and have fun. Good early years education from a young age can help boost child development. Early education is about learning through play. Children will learn through the Early Years Foundation Stage framework which aims to promote children's development, well-being and interest in learning.

Expansion of Childcare

From April 2024, working parents of 2-year olds will be able to access 15 hours free childcare support.

From September 2024, 15 hours free childcare support will be extended to working parents of children from the age of 9 months to 3-year olds.

From September 2025, working parents of children under the age of 5 will be entitled to 30 hours of free childcare a week.

Like the existing offer, depending on your provider, these hours can be used over 38 weeks of the year (during school term time), or up to 52 weeks if you use fewer than your total hours per week.

What is the free early education & childcare entitlement?

Three and four year olds
The free early years entitlement offers all 3 and 4 year old children up to 15 hours per week of free early education for 38 weeks of the year.

Two year olds
You can apply for free early education and childcare for your two year old right here on the Sefton Directory

Families who are claiming benefits or have low working income may be able to apply for up to 15 hours per week of free early education and childcare for their two year old children. This can give you more time to take up a college course or return to work, as well as give your child the opportunity to learn, play with friends, experience new activities and get ready for school.

All looked after children (who are cared for by the local authority) will be funded and also children that have left care through special guardianship, an adoption or a residence order.

Children who receive Disability Living Allowance or with a statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an Education, Health and Care plan will also be eligible.

How do I access a place?

Your early years provider will claim funding from the Council for the free hours they give to your child.
If your child is attending a nursery school or school nursery class, you will be given a school application form to complete. If your child is attending a private, voluntary or independent setting, you will be asked to complete a form at the start of each term which the provider will use to claim the funding.

A free place can be accessed in a variety of settings including pre-school/playgroups, private day nurseries, childminders, private nursery schools or school nurseries/classes. Please note that not all settings in Sefton offer free places and those which do may not necessarily have places available. Please contact providers directly to check availability and secure a place for your child.

Details of settings eligible to offer 2/3/4 year old places are avilable here:
Settings eligible to offer free 2 year old places.
Settings eligible to offer free 3 & 4 year old places.

Details of nursery schools and classes can be found in Sefton's Primary Admissions booklet.

Contact us for more information

For more information about the free entitlement for 3 & 4 year olds please contact the Family Information Service on 0345 140 0845 or email:

For more information about the 2 Year Old Offer please contact 0151 933 6021 or email:
You can also speak to your Health Visitor or your local Family Wellbeing Centre.

For more information on the free entitlement for 2/3/4 year olds please see our leaflet "Free early education and childcare for children aged 2-4 years"

Last Updated

Last updated: 30/01/2024

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