Free early education for 3 and 4-year-olds

All 3 and 4-year-olds can have up to 15 hours of free childcare each week for 38 weeks a year. Some childcare providers offer 12 hours a week over 48 weeks of the year (up to 570 hours).

Here in Kent, these 38 or 48 weeks are in line with school term dates. This is a national scheme and every child in England is entitled to have this.

To get free hours for your child, you'll need to find a childcare provider who's registered with us as well as with Ofsted. If you're not sure whether they're registered, please ask the provider or call us on 03000 41 23 23 to find out.

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.

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.

Academic periods

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 out term dates in Kent.

30 hours free early learning and childcare

From September 2017, the Government intends to extend the free early learning and childcare entitlement for eligible 3 and 4 year olds from 15 hours to 30 hours a week.

Find out more about the 30 hours free funding