Free early education and childcare for three and four year olds

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All three and four-year olds are currently entitled to 15 hours a week of free childcare (this is called Free Early Education Entitlement (FEEE).

In addition, some working parents will be eligible to receive 30 hours of free childcare per week. Read more information about the 30 hour free childcare entitlement on GOV.UK.

All 3 and 4 year olds will start receiving their 15 hours Free Early Education Entitlement the term after their third birthday. The table below shows when your child will be able to start their free place.

For children born between

Two year funding starts from

1 September to 31 December

Spring term: January

1 January to 31 March

Summer term: April

1 April to 31 August

Autumn term: September


You do not need to apply for the free childcare for your child. Your childcare provider will claim the FEEE funding on your behalf directly from Waltham Forest Council.

All three and four-year-olds are entitled to 570 hours of free early education per year. It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week over 38 weeks of the year (split into three terms).

However, if your child‘s provider is open all year round, such as a day nursery, the free hours will be spread equally over those weeks. For example, if your child attends a provider that is open for 50 weeks a year, they will receive 11.4 hours a week.

National limits
National limits are set by the government about how the free sessions can be offered meaning that:

  • no session can be longer than 10 hours
  • no session can be shorter than 2.5 hours
  • a maximum of 15 hours per week can be taken over a minimum of two days

You should discuss with each provider that you contact how they will spread the free hours over the week. Some may offer specific packages, whereas others may be flexible to your requirements. Please note, if you require extra hours of childcare, you will be charged for this.

A variety of childcare providers can offer free early education and childcare for three and four-year-olds*, including:

  • day nurseries
  • pre-schools or playgroups
  • childminders
  • nursery schools
  • nursery classes in primary schools

A listing of childcare providers offering funded spaces can be found here on the Waltham Forest Directory.

Search for childcare providers on Ofsted

Parents interested in a free early education and childcare place for their child in a nursery school or nursery class in a primary school should contact the school’s headteacher directly.

Please note: Taking up a nursery place at a school does not guarantee a reception or Year 1 place at that school. There is a completely separate admissions procedure for reception and Year 1 classes in a school.

If you need help finding a childcare space, please contact the Childcare Team at or call 020 8496 3566.

*In order to ensure the quality and safety of your child’s free early education provision, in addition to having an Ofsted/DfE registration, a provider who wishes to deliver free early education entitlement (FEEE) places must be issued with a contract by the Local Authority to do this.

Prior to the local authority issuing a contract to a DfE-registered school or an Ofsted-registered childcare provider to deliver FEEE places to eligible 2, 3 and 4 year olds, the local authority requires providers to demonstrate their understanding of the legal and statutory requirements they must comply with, with regards to planning and building regulations, Health and Safety(including premises statutory compliance), Employment Law, Safeguarding and Finance by completing the relevant compliance checks.

Providers who fail to demonstrate that they have an understanding of and comply with the requirements covered by the compliance checks, will not be commissioned by the local authority as providers to deliver Free Early Education Entitlement (FEEE) places to eligible 2, 3 and 4 year olds. 

Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) 
All childcare providers offering the FEEE in Waltham Forest will ask you to apply for the EYPP before taking up your place. If your child is eligible, it could provide up to an extra £300 for your child’s nursery, pre-school or childminder to pay for support like extra training or resources to help raise the quality of your child’s early education.

Find out more about Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP)