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Early education places
Every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their potential. Good parenting and high quality early learning together provide the foundation children need to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up.
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) describes the time in a child's life between birth and age five and provides a framework setting the standards for learning, development and care for children during this period.
The free entitlement enables every three and four year old child to access two years of free part time early years provision before they reach compulsory school age. Less advantaged two year olds who meet specific criteria are entitled to a place a year earlier.
The offer is for 570 hours of flexible free entitlement per year accessed over a minimum of 38 weeks of the year at times to best support the child's learning and to meet the needs of parents. This equates to 15 hours per week. The offer may be taken through a range of providers across the maintained, private, independent and voluntary sectors.
The detail of the individual offer is for negotiation between the provider and the family but is subject to:
The minimum offer a parent can normally expect to access is:
but might also be offered two days of six hours plus one day of three hours e.g. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning or Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday. Alternatively a child in full-time day care would simply have their 15 hours of free entitlement credited as part of their overall package. A stretched entitlement is also permissible where a child can access less hours over more weeks. This can be attractive to working parents and also allows a more consistent approach for some children who fall back during long holidays.
It is also possible to split the entitlement between more than one provider but consideration must be given to ensuring continuity of care. Lunch time can be included in the entitlement but must be part of the learning experience and parents cannot be required to purchase a meal. A child accessing provision before and after lunch in the maintained sector may be eligible for a free school meal if the family meets the appropriate criteria. Parents cannot assume that all providers will be able to meet their requirements nor does the entitlement guarantee a place at any particular provider.
Early education places - frequently asked questions