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Early education

Two year old free early learning offer


What is the two year old free early learning offer?

In September 2013, Southwark Council introduced an offer of free early learning for two year old children who may not otherwise benefit from early learning at this age.

Each eligible child is entitled to receive a maximum of 15 hours of free early learning per week until the term after they turn three years old. Then like all children, they will become eligible for a three and four year old free place.

The entitlement can be taken over a minimum of two and a half hours per day or no more than ten hours per day, between the hours of 7am and 7pm, over no fewer than 38 weeks per year (maximum 570 hours per year). Many providers will offer five mornings or afternoons per week, but some will be more flexible.

The early learning offer benefits children’s social, physical, and mental development while also helping them to prepare for school. Evidence shows that regular good quality education has lasting benefits for all children.

Who is eligible for the two year old free early learning offer?

The free early learning offer is available to two year old children whose parents/carers receive one or more of the following:

  • Income Support.
  • Income based Job Seekers’ Allowance.
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance.
  • Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
  • The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit.
  • Child Tax Credit (with an annual gross household income of no more than £16,190).
  • Working Tax Credits (with an annual gross household income of no more than £16,190).
  • Universal Credit.


  • Children who are looked after by the local authority.
  • Children who have left care through special guardianship or an adoption/residence order.
  • Children with a current statement of Special Education Needs or an Education Health Care plan in place.
  • Children that attract Disability Living Allowance.

When can my child access the two year old free early learning offer?

The table below shows when your child will become eligible:

If your child is born between:

They are eligible for a free place from:

1 April and 31 August

The September following their second birthday until the term following their third birthday

1 September and 31 December

The January following their second birthday until the term following their third birthday

1 January and 31 March

The April following their second birthday until the term following their third birthday 

Start dates may vary from year to year according to the individual setting.

Where can my child access a two year old free early learning place?

The two year old free early learning offer can be provided by:

  • Day nurseries
  • Pre schools or playgroups
  • Independent schools
  • Children’s centres
  • Maintained nursery schools and classes
  • Some registered childminders

Please note that not all Southwark settings are participating in the scheme.

You can download a list of participating Free Early Learning providers here, please note that this list is regularly updated and subject to change:

Two year old free early learning providers

How can I be sure about the quality of an early education provider?

All providers of early education must meet the following criteria:

  • Be maintained schools in the local authority or registered by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) and inspected for the childcare and education they provide on a regular basis.
  • All staff are checked by the Disclosure and Barring Service.
  • Meet the learning and development and welfare requirements of the statutory Early Years Foundation Stage.

You can view the Ofsted inspection report of an early education provider on Ofsted’s website: www.ofsted.gov.uk/reports

Who pays for the two year old free early learning offer?

Registered providers claim the cost of the offer directly from Southwark Council. There is no money passed to the parents/carers.

Will parents be charged for the free early learning offer?

Providers cannot charge parents for any part of the 15 hours free early learning. Providers who charge for goods or services such as light meals, extra activities, or additional hours cannot do so as a condition of children accessing this offer.

If my circumstances change whilst my child is attending a free early learning place, will my child lose the place?

No. If your circumstances change whilst your child is attending an early learning place, your child will not lose the free place.

What if my child attends for longer than the hours of the free learning offer?

If you choose for your child to attend for longer than the length of the funded offer, you will be expected to pay for this additional time. 

Can I use more than one early education provider?

It is possible to split your place between two private, voluntary and independent providers as long as the total number of free hours does not exceed the entitlement. However, this option is only available if the provider is able to accommodate you in this way. You will also need to inform both providers of where you have taken up a split place.

Can my child access the free entitlement if they have just moved to England from another country?

Children moving to England from other countries are entitled to access the free early education entitlement on the same basis as any other child, regardless of whether they have British citizenship.

How do I apply for the offer?

Please visit http://www.myearlylearning.co.uk/ or you can apply online here.

If your application is successful you will need to take a copy of the confirmation email to your preferred participating early learning provider to enquire about your free place.

If you think you are eligible because of:

  • Children looked after or adopted.
  • Children with a current statement of Special Education Needs or an Education Health Care plan in place.
  • Children that attract Disability Living Allowance.

You will need to send us evidence of this with an application form. Please contact us for an application form.

After checking we will write to you and confirm if you are eligible for a free place.

If you have any questions about the free early learning offer you can contact us by emailing earlylearninginfo@southwark.gov.uk.

You can download the information on this page as a leaflet here

Participating Early Learning Providers can download a copy of the FEEE Local Code of Practice here.

You can also contact us if you are not happy about the way your child has received their free offer. We would encourage you to raise any concerns you have with the early education provider in the first instance, however, if you are still not able to resolve your concern, or are not happy with the way it has been dealt with, please let us know.

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Southwark Council
PO BOX 64529
London SE1P 5LX

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