Free Childcare for 3 and 4 year old's

Children aged 3 and 4 year old are entitled to 15 hours of free early education, this is often taken over 38 weeks of the year, starting at the school term after a child turns 3 years old.

Some childcare providers offer places more flexibly, you may be able to stretch the free sessions over more weeks of the year by using less hours each week.  Speak to the providers to see what they can offer.

Who provides it?

You can use any of the following as long as they are Ofsted registered and are included on the local authority list to provide the entitlement:

• Day nurseries
• Pre schools
• Nursery schools
• Nursery classes
• Independent schools
• Childminders

We cannot fund any other types of care, including family arrangements.

The Children and Families Information Service can help you to find a provider, call 03457 125 737 or email

When is my child eligible?
If your child's third birthday falls between:

Your child will become eligible from:

1 January and 31 March The start of the Summer Term (April)
1 April and 31 August The start of the Autumn Term (September)
1 September and 31 December The start of the Spring Term (January)
How are the hours offered?

Childcare providers are required to offer the free entitlement which complies with the limits below. Providers will decide when they are able to offer free entitlement hours as not all providers will be able to offer all the options.

• The minimum length of a session is 2 ½ hours
• The maximum length of a session is 10 hours in any one day
• The 15 hours can be taken over minimum of 2 days

Additional funding that may be available

Funding may be available to support individual children and raise the quality of childcare that a childcare provider can offer:

Early Years Pupil Premium

Disability Access Fund

What are the benefits of high quality early years education and childcare?

Early years research clearly show that good quality early education does benefit children in the long term, particularly the most disadvantaged.  It has also shown that high quality pre-school provision enhances children's social, physical and mental development, as well as helping them to prepare for school, giving them the best start in life.

Children will meet and play with other children, this will help them to build their confidence, the areas of learning include:

  • Communication and language 
  • Physical development 
  • Personal, social and emotional development

Your child will:

  • Experience new and exciting activities 
  • Make new friends 
  • Build their confidence and social skills 
  • Improve their speech and language

As a parent free early education can help you:

  • Save on childcare costs 
  • Have time to explore work and/or training opportunities 
  • Take on more paid work 
  • Support your child to play and learn 
  • Have more time to yourself
How do I apply for a place?

To apply for a nursery attached to a school please ring the School Admissions Team on 01228 221582 or visit the westmorland and furness council website

To apply to a private, voluntary or independent provider please ask them directly for an application form.

Am I eligible for Early Years Pupil Premium?
What is Disability Access Fund (DAF)?


Page last reviewed: 20/04/2023

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