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Free early learning

All 3 and 4 year olds, and some 2 year olds, in England can get free early education or childcare, usually 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year. 

This is available at nurseries, including children's centres and primary schools, and with some childminders.

Free early learning for 2 year olds

Find out if your child is eligible

Who is eligible

Your child can get free early learning at the age of 2 if you live in Islington and you get one of these benefits:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit
  • tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
  • support through Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

Your child can also get free early learning at the age of 2, if:

  • they are looked after by a local council
  • they have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • they receive Disability Living Allowance
  • they have left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order

When you can start receiving free hours for your child

You can start receiving free hours for your child from the beginning of the term after their second birthday.

  • if their birthday is before 1 September, they can start in the autumn term
  • if their birthday is before 1 January, they can start in the spring term
  • if their birthday is before 1 April, can start in the summer term

How to apply

You can check whether your child is eligible one term before you are able to start receiving free hours. For example, if your child turns two between 1 January and 31 March, you can check from 1 January.

Find out if your child is eligible

We'll check the information you provide and will contact you by post within two to three weeks to let you know if your child is eligible. If they are, you can choose where you want them to go, depending on spaces at the nurseries and childminders offering free childcare for 2 year olds.

If you're applying for a child who is looked after by Islington, please contact your supervising social worker to discuss what is best for the child.

If you prefer, you can download an eligibility form or get a copy at your local children’s centre.

For help and advice, contact the Family Information Service on 020 7527 5959 or email fis@islington.gov.uk

If your 2 year old is eligible for free early learning, you can also get free support and training courses to help you learn new skills to get ready to work.

Free early learning for 3 and 4 year olds

15 Hours Free Early Learning for 3 and 4 year olds

Who is eligible

All 3 and 4 year olds are eligible for 15 hours free early learning in the school term after their third birthday.

  • if their birthday is before 1 September, they can start in the autumn term
  • if their birthday is before 1 January, they can start in the spring term
  • if their birthday is before 1 April, can start in the summer term

Places are usually available for 15 hours a week, for up to 38 weeks a year (570 hours per year). This could be in nurseries, including in children’s centres, and with childminders who are signed up to the scheme.

30 Hours Free Childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

From September 2017 some working parents will be eligible for an additional 15 hours of free childcare for their 3 and 4 year olds. These families will be able to access up to 30 hours of free childcare a week.

If you are eligible for 30 hours free childcare you can access this offer in the school term after your child’s third birthday.

  • if their birthday is before 1 September, they can start in the autumn term
  • if their birthday is before 1 January, they can start in the spring term
  • if their birthday is before 1 April, can start in the summer term

Who is eligible

You may be eligible for 30 hours of free childcare if your circumstances are as follows:

  • Both parents are working (employed or self-employed including zero hours contracts) or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family; and each parent earns, on average, a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at the national minimum wage (NMW) or national living wage (NLW); and each parent individually earns less than £100,000 per year
  • Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity or paternity leave
  • Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on adoption leave
  • Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on statutory sick pay
  • One parent is employed and one parent has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring or 
  • One parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits.

Find out more about 30 hours free childcare and a new scheme called tax-free childcare

Find out more about the providers that offer early learning and childcare or contact the Family Information Service on 020 7527 5959. To find a place for your child, contact each provider and fill in their application form. The free hours will be arranged on your behalf by the provider.

Many places are oversubscribed, so you may not get your first choice. Free early learning is usually available term time only, but childminders can offer the hours more flexibly across holiday periods.

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