Free early education for 2-year-olds

Some 2-year-olds can get up to 15 hours of free childcare each week for 38 weeks a year. Here in Kent, these 38 weeks are in line with three academic periods (autumn, spring and summer). This is a national scheme.

Some childcare providers are able to offer 12 hours a week over 48 weeks of the year (up to 570 hours).

The scheme is currently available to 2-year-olds:

  • who are looked after by the local authority
  • who are no longer looked after by the local authority as a result of an adoption order, a special guardianship order or a residence order
  • who have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan
  • whose parents receive specific benefits.

Some childcare providers will be able to offer you 12 hours for 48 weeks (to a maximum of 570 hours).

If your child is eligible, the free hours start in the term after their second birthday:

Child's birthdayWhen you can claim
1 January to 31 MarchThe beginning of the term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 AugustThe beginning of the term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 DecemberThe beginning of the term on or after 1 January

To get free hours for your child, apply online now for an immediate response.

Otherwise, you'll need to either:

Please do not apply more than once as this can delay the checking process.

Apply online

You can use your 15 hours:

  • between 7am and 7pm
  • for a minimum of 2 and a half hours a day
  • for a maximum of 10 hours a day

You can split your 15 hours between up to 2 providers, for example a nursery and a childminder. You don't have to use the whole 15 hours if that seems too much.

If you want more than 15 hours, you will need to pay the extra cost yourself.

Once you have been confirmed eligible for a free 2-year-old place, the funding will remain with your child until they take up their free 3-year-old place – even if your financial circumstances change.

Our guide to free early education places (PDF, 240.0 KB) will answer some of the common questions you may have about how this works.

If you're using 15 hours a week over 38 weeks

Autumn: 1 September to 31 December - 14 Weeks
Spring: 1 January to last day of the spring holiday - 11 Weeks
Summer: First day of the summer term to 31 August - 13 Weeks

If you're using 12 hours a week over 48 weeks

Autumn: 1 September to 31 December - 16 Weeks
Spring: 1 January to last day of the spring holiday - 14 Week
Summer: First day of the summer term to 31 August - 18 Weeks

Find Kent term dates.