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Two Year Olds

Free Early Learning for Two Year Olds

Information for Islington early years providers and prospective providers

National two year old offer

Some two year olds from low income families are entitled to free part-time early education beginning the term after the child’s second birthday. This national government-funded entitlement came into effect on 1st September 2013 and seeks to improve the attainment and life chances of some of the most disadvantaged children.

Eligible children are entitled to up to 570 hours per year (this equates to 15 hours per week, term time only but can be delivered flexibly across the year – see below).

2 year olds whose families earn no more than £16,190 per year through work or benefits, or who are looked after by the local authority, adopted, or have special educational needs and disabilities, are entitled to a free part-time place. Further information about eligibility is available online at

Provision for eligible two year olds in Islington

Many high quality early years providers in Islington are now offering free part-time places to eligible two year olds. Places are available in children’s centres, nurseries, playgroups, childminders and primary schools, providing flexibility and choice for parents.

Settings interested in providing for eligible two year olds should contact the local authority. See ‘joining the provider list’ below. 

Provider quality 

The government has specified that, wherever possible, eligible two year olds should access their entitlement in provision that is judged by Ofsted to be at least ‘good’. Research shows that good quality early years provision improves children’s outcomes, and Islington has high aspirations for all young children. Support for quality improvement, business planning and Ofsted registration and inspection is available from the Early Years Service and Early Years Foundation Stage Team.

Joining the provider list

Providers need to be approved by the local authority before they can offer free early learning for two year olds. If you are a good quality setting and would like to offer places under this scheme, you should apply to the local authority. Contact the Early Years Service for more information. You must agree to meet the statutory conditions, after which you will be added to the provider list and you will be able to allocate places to eligible children as agreed.

Capital funding

Capital funding may be available to Islington early years providers wishing to expand their existing provision in order to offer places to eligible two year olds. You will need to make a formal application to the local authority using the form available below. A funding panel will consider your application and allocate funding accordingly.

Revenue funding

Revenue funding is calculated using the Early Years Single Funding Formula (EYSFF) for two year old places. Group settings can receive £7.10 per child per hour, and childminders £6.50. Contact the Early Years and Childcare Service for more information (please see contact list below).

The flexible offer

The 570 hours can be offered to eligible two year olds flexibly:

  • over no fewer than 38 weeks per year unless parents request it (n.b. places donot need to be term time only)
  • in sessions of no more than 10 hours per day
  • between 7am and 7pm

These conditions match those for funded 3 and 4 year old places

Providers can put together their 2 year old offer within these conditions, to suit the provider and where there is local demand for particular hours. For example, a child could be offered 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year (term time only), or 12 hours a week for 48 weeks per year.

Please note: children should be able to progress seamlessly to their 3 year old entitlement at the same setting (or a linked provider) and over the same hours if parents wish them to do so.

Applications and admissions

Parents complete and submit an online form in order to have their eligibility checked by a central Islington team. Information for parents and the link to the form is available here: A paper form is also available and can be printed out from the same webpage. The local children’s centre can help parents to complete the form if needed.

If eligible, parents receive a confirmation letter and a list of participating providers. Parents apply directly to settings for a place for their child. They can apply to as many settings on the list as they like. The Family Information Service can help parents that are looking for a place.

The setting must see a copy of the confirmation letter sent to the parent before allocating a place. Guidance for early years settings on how to allocate places and how to achieve a balance of age ranges across the year is available in the admissions guidance document below. Settings receiving place funding from the council must allocate places to eligible two year olds in line with Islington’s Early Years Admissions Policy.

Eligible children that are already accessing a childcare place

Most eligible two year olds will not currently be accessing early years provision. However, there may be some cases where a family is entitled to free hours and is currently paying for a place. These families should be encouraged to complete an eligibility check form (see above). If eligible, the local authority will arrange payment to the child’s setting at the agreed rate from the start of the relevant term, provided the setting is judged to be ‘good’ or better by Ofsted and the child is not already funded by the local authority, for example through the Early Years Priority Referral scheme.

If the setting has a judgement that is less than good, the local authority will make a decision about whether or not to fund the setting based on the best interests of the child and family and the recommendations from the setting’s most recent Ofsted inspection. 

Further Information and Contacts

The documents below contain useful information for early years providers interested in the expansion of two year old places.

For further information, contact the relevant council officer using the contact list below.


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