Free Entitlement to Early Education for two, three and four year olds

Some two year olds and all three and four year olds are entitled to a Free Early Education place (FEE).

Free Early Education for two year olds

The Free Early Education for two year olds (FEE2) offers eligible children up to 15 hours per week of quality early years education from the term after their second birthday.

How do children qualify?

For parents to be eligible for a place on the FEE2, they must meet any one of the following from either Criteria A or B.

Criteria A:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit - if you and your partner have a combined income from work of less than £15,400 a year after tax
  • tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

Criteria B:

  • they’re looked after by a local council
  • they have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • they get Disability Living Allowance
  • they’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order

Extending eligibility for a free early education place for disadvantaged two year olds
The government has decided to extend eligibility for the free early education entitlement for the most disadvantaged two year old children to three additional groups of children.

The new groups of children to be entitled to a free place are:

  • Children of Zambrano Carers
  • Children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on   grounds of private/family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • Children of a subset of failed asylum seekers (supported under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 – ‘the 1999 Act’).

The children of Zambrano Carers will be entitled, if their parents meet similar low level income requirements to others eligible for the scheme (e.g. £15,400 net earnings threshold for families in receipt of Universal Credit). We are also extending the entitlement to children whose families have a right to be here on Article 8 grounds with no recourse to public funds and who meet the same criteria of economic disadvantage. Along with children whose families receive support under section 4 of the 1999 Act because they are temporarily unable to leave the UK and would otherwise be destitute.

All extended criteria enquiries please email:  Or contact Barnet Early Years team
Tel: 020 8359 3052.

How many hours are children entitled to?

Children are entitled to up to 15 hours per week, that’s 570 hours per year. Most childcare providers offer their places term time only (38 weeks per year), however, some childcare providers may offer ‘Stretched’ places. This is when a child goes for fewer hours per week but attend for more than 38 weeks. Parent’s need to discuss with their chosen childcare provider how they are offering their FEE2 places and what hours are available.

How can families apply?

Applications can be made online. To make an application on the parents behalf, you will need the parents:

  • National Insurance (NI) or National Asylum Seeker Service (NASS) reference number
  • parent’s surname
  • parents date of birth

Essential upgrade notice

The application portal will be unavailable Friday 8 December at 4 pm until Tuesday 12 December at 8 am. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

What happens next?

After the application has been made, the parents details will be run through the national eligibility checker (using the NI/NASS number, parents name and parent’s date of birth). Parents will receive confirmation of their application to notify them whether of not their child is eligible for a FEE2 place. Parents can then look for suitable participating childcare providers (see links above for details of participating childcare providers).

What happens to children that are not eligible under the revised criteria?

If a child is already in a childcare placement, the funding will not be removed if their circumstances mean they do not meet the revised criteria.

All children who require a place from September must meet the revised criteria. Any application submitted on an older version of the referral will be returned to the sender and not accepted. Any application received prior to this date, will be contacted where eligibility need to be re-assessed.

When can children access a free place?

The earliest a child can access their free place is the term after their second birthday. 
The table below shows the dates of birth and the earliest time a child could take up their free place:

A child born between:  Is eligible from:
1 January – 31 March 1 April – Summer Term
1 April – 31 August 1 September – Autumn Term
1 September – 31 December 1 January  - Spring Term

FEE for three and four year olds

All three and four year olds are eligible for up to 15 hours and some are eligible for up to 30 hours of FEE up to 38 weeks per year (term time only). These free hours can be taken as flexibly as the childcare provider is able to offer. Children become eligible the term after their third birthday.

When can children access a free place?

The table above also shows for three and four years olds the dates of birth and the earliest time a child could take up their free place.

For more details on how the FEE for two, three, and four year old schemes operate view the childcare choices site.