Free early education and childcare

Free childcare

Free childcare for two year olds

Your 2-year-old may be eligible for free childcare at nurseries, pre-schools or childminders.

Create an account to check your eligibility

Read our FEEE data protection statement (PDF, 127KB). You can also find out more information about data protection in Cheshire East and the public sector guarantee on data handling.

You may be eligible for free childcare if your 2 Year child has:

  • a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an Education, Health and Care Plan
  • receives Disability Living Allowance
  • is looked after by the local authority
  • left care through special guardianship, adoption or residence order

Contact: the Family Information Service on 0300 123 5033 to find out if you qualify for any of the above reasons.

How many hours you are entitled to

There are up to 15 hours per week of free childcare in term time only (38 weeks of the year) or up to 11 hours per week if taken over the whole year. This will depend on your preferred childcare providers' opening times and availability.

Free childcare providers

The funded child cared for two years olds can only be taken with childcare providers who are on Cheshire East's approved list.

You have some choice about how and where you take your free childcare place, but this depends on who has vacancies.

How to arrange free childcare

After you have successfully completed your eligibility check, Cheshire East Family Information Service, will send you a confirmation letter with a unique reference code and a list of approved providers in a 2 mile radius of your postcode. To take a place elsewhere in Cheshire East but not on your list contact the Family Information Service on 0300 123 5033 who will provide a list of additional providers.

When your child has a place and you are happy with the placement your child will remain with that childcare provider. They will automatically be transferred over to the funding for three and four year olds, even if your circumstances change, for example you return to work.

2 year old free childcare leaflets

Free early education entitlement (FEEE) for 3 and 4 year olds

All children are entitled to a free early education place starting the term after their third birthday. As parents you have a choice of the type of childcare your children can attend in order to receive their free entitlement. For example:

  • private day nursery (some are based in Children’s Centres)
  • pre-school/playgroup or independent school
  • some childminders
  • maintained nursery unit operated by a Cheshire East school or a maintained nursery school

Conditions for free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

The entitlement is for 15 hours of free early learning care per week over term time (38 weeks a year), a total of 570 hours over the year.

The entitlement may be stretched over the whole year with fewer hours per week for example 11 hours a week over the full year. These conditions apply:

  • your child can attend a maximum of 10 hours a day, there are no minimum hours
  • the entitlement is available between 6am – 8pm, even if the childcare provider is open before or after this
  • a child may attend a maximum of two sites in a single day
  • A child may not change provider during the term unless there are exceptional circumstances agreed by the Council
  • children should be able to take up their free hours as part of continuous provision and providers should avoid artificial breaks during the day wherever possible
  • government funding is intended to deliver up to 15 hours (or 30 hours for eligible families) a week of free, high quality , flexible childcare. It is not intended to cover the costs of meals, other consumables, additional hours or optional activities
  • providers can charge for meals and snacks, consumables and optional activities as part of the free entitlement delivery but parents must not have to pay as a condition of taking up their child’s free entitlement place. Consumables may include personal care items such as wipes, nappies, sun cream, etc. Providers should not charge for the resources necessary to deliver the free entitlement such as paper, paint and equipment
  • a provider may charge a deposit of up to £50 to reserve a place. The deposit should be refunded by the end of the first half term your child attends. The deposit may not be refunded if you do not take up the place. Deposits are not payable for the 2 year old entitlement or for 3 and 4 year olds who have previously accessed the 2 year old entitlement

30 hours free childcare proposal

All 3 and 4-year-olds in England already get 15 hours a week, or 570 hours a year of free early education. If their parents are living and working in England, 3 and 4-year-olds may be entitled to an additional 15 hours free childcare. An extra 570 hours of free childcare a year, so 1140 hours in total. 

The additional 15 hours per week (30 hours in total) are available from September 2017 to working parents of 3 and 4 year olds that meet the following eligibility criteria:

Your childcare provider will require proof that you are eligible to 30 hours free childcare. Check your eligibility online using the government website https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/

What to do next

1. Find a place for your child

As a parent/carer you can decide where you would like your child to go (subject to availability). For more information about what is available in your area, or help to find a place call Cheshire East’s Family Information Service on 0300 123 5033 or go to our Choosing Childcare pages. You should contact the provider of your choice as soon as possible in case they have a waiting list for places.

2. Discuss the free entitlement with your setting

Each term you will be asked to sign a parental declaration, setting out agreed hours and patterns of access to the free entitlement. The entitlement maybe split between a maximum of 2 providers. If you decide to access the free entitlement at more than one setting, you will be required to complete a parental declaration form for both settings.

More information about Free Early Education Entitlement (PDF, 109KB) is available. 

Early years pupil premium (EYPP)

The Early Years Pupil Premium is extra funding that your childcare provider can claim for eligible three and four year old children accessing their free early education entitlement. The extra funding is to support children’s development, learning and care.

More information is available on our EYPP parent leaflet (PDF, 415KB)

Contact us

Family Information Service
Cheshire East Council



0300 123 5033


Rate this page

We value your feedback. How do you rate this information?