Free Early Learning and Childcare for 2 year olds

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30 percent of of all two year olds in Waltham Forest can get up to 15 hours a week of free early education and childcare.

Eligibility Click to get info

Your 2-year-old will be eligible for free childcare and early education if your family gets one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • support under Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Tax Credits, and you have an income of under £16,190 before tax
  • Working Tax Credit run-on, which is paid for four weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit, and you have an annual net earned income equivalent not exceeding £15,400, assessed on up to three your most recent Universal Credit assessment periods

If you’re a non-EEA citizen who cannot claim benefits

Your 2-year-old may get free childcare if you are getting support under the Immigration and Asylum Act and have either:

  • claimed asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision (known as ‘part 6’)
  • been refused asylum in the UK (known as ‘section 4’)

A 2-year-old you care for may also get free childcare if your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, and you have either:

Your 2 -year-old can also get free childcare and early education if they:

  • have an education, health and care plan (EHC Plan)
  • get Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • are looked after by a local authority in England or Wales (‘in care’)
  • have left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order in England or Wales

Checking your Eligibility

To assess your child's eligibility for a 2 year old Free Early Education place, please apply by creating an account on our parent portal.

If eligible the system will provide you a code which you can give to your chosen childcare provider to claim the free childcare.

To assist parents/carers in assessing children please see our parent user guide for applying for 15 hours of free early Learning and childcare for 2 year olds

If you are not eligible for Free Childcare funding under the above criteria, you might be able to get some further help via the 2-Year-Old Partnership Pathway.

Eligible two-year olds can start receiving their entitlement the term after their second birthday. The following table 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

Eligible 2-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 51 weeks a year, they will receive 11 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
  • a maximum of 15 hours per week can be taken over a minimum of two days
  • you can use your free childcare during the weekends as well

You can discuss with the provider how your free hours can be taken. Some may offer set days and times, whereas others may be more flexible. If needed, you can purchase additional hours of childcare.

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

  • day nurseries
  • pre-schools or playgroups
  • childminders
  • nursery schools

Find out more about various types of childcare providers and the difference between them.

For a list of childcare providers in your area offering funded spaces

Once you have chosen your preferred childcare setting, contact them directly to arrange for your child to start. If you would like to take up any additional hours outside the Free Early Education Entitlement, the childcare provider will invoice you accordingly.

Please note that 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.

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. 

If you are not ready to take your child to a nursery or a pre-school yet, bring your child to a free Stay 2 Play session delivered at various Waltham Forest Children and Family Centres and join in the fun yourself. Each two-hour session supports your child’s learning through playing with other children alongside their parents or carers.

A range of stimulating activities are available at the sessions allowing your child to play, paint, read, cook, climb, sing, dance, dress up, jump, run around, whatever they like doing.

If you do not have your 2-year-old eligibility code or access to the internet, just come along to one of the sessions, bring your National Insurance Number or your National Asylum Support Service (NASS) number, and we'll also do the check for you on the day. You can attend the session whether you are eligible for the Free Childcare for 2-year-olds or not.

See Stay 2 Play sessions on our Facebook group or go to the Children and Family Centres page.

The Education Support Service has produced three short videos to help you find out more about the Free Early Education Entitlement in different kinds of childcare settings.

FEEE entitlement and provision settings

Free childcare at pre-schools and maintained school nurseries

Free childcare for 2 year olds in full day care settings