Skip to main content

Free early education for 3 & 4 year olds – universal entitlement & extended entitlement

What is the universal and extended entitlement?

Universal entitlement

All children are entitled to a free early education place at an approved provider of the family’s choice, from the beginning of the term after they are three. This universal entitlement to a free early education place is free to parents and will provide a child with early education until they reach school age. The universal entitlement is 570 hours per year. This is often taken as 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year but families can arrange to take fewer hours per week over more weeks of the year if they prefer.

For example, your child could attend a setting for 11 hours per week for 51 weeks of the year.

Slough Borough council approves a range of providers to offer free early education places to 2, 3 and 4 year old children. These can be found on the Slough Family Information Service website and include childminders, children’s centres, day nurseries, nursery classes in school, nursery schools, pre-schools and playgroups and private and independent nursery schools. Parents can phone the Family Information Service for information about early years providers on 01753 476589 or email them at

Parents can find a place for their child by contacting some settings and arranging to visit and have a look around. When you visit it is important to discuss whether the days / times that you require are available in the setting. Your child can take their free early education hours at one or two sites each day but the total hours of universal entitlement will not be more than 570 (15 hours per week for 38 weeks).

Extended entitlement - 30 hours

From 1 September 2017 the government is introducing an Extended Entitlement to early education for working families. The extended entitlement is an additional 570 hours, making 1140 hours in total. This works out to 30 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year, but, like the universal entitlement, this can be stretched over more weeks of the year if the family wishes and over more than one site per day.

For example, your child could attend a setting for 24 hours per week for 47 weeks of the year or 22 hours per week for 51 weeks of the year.

Am I eligible?

Your family is eligible for the extended entitlement if you are in work (both parents in a two parent household or one parent in a one parent household) and earning the equivalent of 16 hours per week at the national minimum or living wage and not more than £100,000 per year. If you are self employed, or on a zero hour contract you will be asked to confirm that you will meet the income threshold outlined above.

You can check whether you are eligible for a range of government childcare offers, including 30 hours, via Childcare Choices. If you are eligible to apply the site will direct you to the digital childcare service.

How do I apply?

You can apply for the extended entitlement by visiting Childcare Choices or by going directly to the online eligibility checking service.

During the application you will be asked for information about yourself and your partner if you have one. The information you will need to provide will include: your National Insurance number, the date you started work or the date you are due to start work, details of any other government support that you get and, if you are self employed, your Unique Taxpayer Reference.

If you have difficulty with the application or do not have access to the internet you can phone the Childcare Service Customer Interaction Centre on 0300 123 4097.

Once you have applied successfully you will be given an Eligibility Reference Number. You will need to give this number to your chosen provider, or share it with a provider via our Citizen Portal (see below) along with your National Insurance Number. The provider will ask you to sign a form giving consent for them to share your details with the local authority. This will enable the provider to check your eligibility and receive information about grace periods. The provider has to make this check before they can offer your child a free early education extended entitlement place.

Once you have accepted an extended entitlement place for your child it is important that you reconfirm your eligibility for the place every three months. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will send you a reminder when you need to do this.

If you lose your job whilst your child is receiving an extended entitlement place, you will be given some time to find another job before your child loses their place. This is called a grace period. You can find out about this on the Childcare Choices website or you can talk to your provider about it.

Citizen Portal

Once you have an Eligibility Reference Number you can use it on our Citizen Portal.  The portal allows registered users to check the validity of their code and the period of eligibility.  Eligible applicants can also use it to express an interest in their child attending a particular provider.  Once you have shared your eligibility with a provider (or multiple providers), they will contact you to discuss next steps.

To access the Citizen Portal, please follow the below link.