What is the Early Years Free Entitlement?

Schools and early years providers like ourselves must follow a structure of learning, development and care for children from birth to five years old. This is called the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and it enables your child to learn through a range of structured activities. Ultimately, the EYFS will prepare your child for school.

All three and four year olds and eligible two year olds are entitled to free part-time early years learning until the school term in which they have their fifth birthday. If your child attends a reception class in a local authority school, this counts as their free entitlement. Children of the eligible age are guaranteed a free early years place, but not the right to a free place with a particular early years provider.

Date of your child’s third birthday

Funding period in which your child can access EYFE

1st April – 31st AugustAutumn (1st September)
1st September – 31st DecemberSpring (1st January)
1st January – 31st MarchSummer (1st April)



How much Free Early Learning can my Child Receive?

As of September 2012, children are entitled to a maximum of 570 hours of free early learning over 12 months. This is equivalent to 15 hours a week over 38 weeks. Further considerations are:

  • No session can be longer than 10 hours
  • No session can be shorter than 2.5 hours
  • Sessions can’t be taken before 8.00 a.m. or after 6.00 p.m.
  • A maximum of 15 hours a week which must be taken over no fewer than 2 days
  • A maximum of 2 providers at any one time

Wishing Tree Nursery Terms and Conditions for the EYFE

The nursery can offer places to parents / carers seeking either just the free entitlement hours (stand-alone provision) or those wishing to book additional paid hours. The nursery can also accommodate parents wishing to provide their own extras such as food, drink and toiletries. We do not charge top up fees for the free hours, however, we do charge for extras such as food, drink, outings, toiletries and extra classes.

The nursery’s admission policy is geared towards prioritising bookings that (1) comprise EYFE combined with additional hours (2) require the nursery to provide extras such as food and drink (3) require the EYFE to be provided solely by the nursery and not split with another provider. Regardless of the booking request, all places are offered on the basis of availability.

Please also refer to our terms and conditions which are detailed in the information guide or on our web site www.wishingtreenursery.com.

Stand-alone provision – a child who only accesses the free entitlement with no additional hours booked

The only booking we can accept is for 10 hours per week over the 50 week year, arranged as one full day per week or two five hour sessions, which can be taken as either mornings or afternoons. This will provide 500 hours free entitlement over the 50 weeks the nursery is open. The remaining 70 hours can either be used at another setting or here at the Wishing Tree as extra sessions when available.

New children joining the nursery who are immediately eligible for the free entitlement will pay no deposit provided they only access the EYFE. Children requiring additional hours will pay a deposit in accordance with the nursery’s normal terms and conditions.

If you wish the nursery to provide meals, drinks and toiletries then there will be an additional charge of £4.00 for a full day EYFE or £2.00 per session for half days. If you do not wish the nursery to provide these extras then we will advise you on what to bring in terms of meals and toiletries. We have refrigerated storage for any items that need to be chilled.

Combined provision – a child who accesses the free entitlement plus additional hours booked

We are able to accommodate up to 47.5 hours of free entitlement per month, which will be arranged in accordance with the overall booking requirement.

The nursery charges £50 per session as a deposit for additional hours, to be held whilst your child attends the nursery. This is refunded in the final month of your child’s time at nursery.

We will assume that combined bookings will include meals and toiletries and therefore the billing will reflect this. Parents / carers can provide their own extras as required and subject to the nursery’s admission criteria.

General Terms for Standalone or Combined EYFE Bookings

There is an 8 week notice period for termination of the booking or any changes to the booking.

If you only wish to access free entitlement, then it is unlikely that you will be able to split attendance over two settings because we require a minimum of 10 hours to be used per week here at our nursery. You may however redeem only 5 funded hours here provided there is a booking for a further 5 paid hours. This means that you could access the balance of the free funding somewhere else if needed.

Billing is provided monthly and will only show extras or additional hours if you are booking standalone hours. For combined hours, invoices will show EYFE extras such as food and drink as well as non EYFE hours. Invoices will also show the amount of free hours provided in any given month.

Whilst the free entitlement is structured for 38 weeks of the year, 15 hours per week, the nursery cannot accept a booking if it is required for term time only. Our booking period is for 50 weeks of the year (we are closed bank holidays and between Christmas and New Year).

Existing children in the nursery who become eligible for the free entitlement are subject to the same EYFE admission criteria as new children joining the nursery.

Existing children in the nursery who become eligible for the free entitlement, and who paid an initial deposit on joining the nursery, will have the deposit refunded within 2 months of the commencement of the entitlement. This only applies to children accessing EYFE hours with no additional charged hours.

How the Funding Works 

We claim the funding from Brighton and Hove Council on your behalf and this is deducted from your monthly bill in advance. Following your child’s 3rd birthday we will send you an EYFE form which provides details about your child and what sessions you are claiming. This also provides details of any other setting that your child may be attending.

Once we have received the funding, we allocate this to your account on a monthly basis in the same way we calculate your monthly fees i.e. we take the amount of free hours being provided over the year and divide by 12. This amount is then deducted from your bill transparently so you only see the net fee for additional hours, extras, food and drink etc. The idea behind this is that for ease of administration and payment, your monthly invoice is a constant figure. Any over or under charging can be smoothed out during the year. 

Additional information taken from the Brighton and Hove Family Information Service:

Are these hours totally free or will I have to pay anything?

The free early learning must be offered free to parents – they should not be asked to:

  • Pay a fee for the basic funded hours
  • Pay in advance for the free hours

Parents and carers will need to pay:

  • For additional hours if the funded hours are offered as part of a longer session
  • For additional services, for example, meals, French lessons or ballet classes.
  • When your child attends more than 15 hours a week
  • For hours that are not covered by the early years provider (e.g. although an early years provider may be open 50 weeks a year, they may only offer Free Early Learning for 38 weeks of the year)
  •  The cost of additional care is a private matter between the early years provider and the parent / carer. You should make sure that you understand how much you will be charged for any additional hours or services before your child starts.

Can my child attend more than one early years provider?

You can split the funding between a maximum of two early years providers, as long as you do not exceed the maximum entitlement. However, some providers may give priority to children who want to take up their full entitlement with that provider. 

Cross Local Authority funding

You can decide which early years provider is best for you and your child, depending on the vacancies available and your circumstances. If you wish, your child could attend an early years provider in East or West Sussex, or any other local authority. 

Understanding your invoice/statement

Your invoice/statement will clearly show your child’s Free Early Learning hours, along with what you are being charged for any additional hours and services used. Early years providers can charge what they want for additional hours and services.

It is important that you ask early years providers what charges they will make – do not calculate this yourself based on fees for children not receiving the free entitlement. If you have any concerns about, or do not understand your invoice/statement:

  • Make an appointment to see the manager/supervisor so that they can explain your invoice/statement,
  • Contact the FIS (Family Information Service) if you are not satisfied with, or do not understand their explanation.

What Happens if I want Just the Free Entitlement?

A “stand-alone” place refers to the Free Early Learning hours only, being taken at an early years provider. If you want a “stand-alone” place then maintained/local authority nursery schools or classes, many pre-school playgroups and all children’s centre nurseries offer stand-alone hours.

Day nurseries, extended playgroups and child-minders tend to cater for parents who want longer hours but may offer stand-alone places – check with the early years provider.

You cannot be forced to take-up additional provision or services as a condition of accessing the free hours of early learning; however, early years providers are free to set their own admissions criteria and these criteria could include giving preference to children who want additional services.

If you cannot find a stand-alone place, please let the Family Information Service know. They can offer you information on other early years providers that offer this. 

How do I Claim the Free Hours?

At the start of each funding period your early years provider will give you a simple form to complete called a ‘parents/carers certificate.

  • You will be required to sign this as a declaration of your claim at the start of each funding period.
  • You will be asked to confirm the number of hours you are claiming from that early years provider and state how many hours (if any) you are claiming from another early years provider.
  • Funding for your child’s hours is then paid directly to your early years provider(s) and your bill will be reduced accordingly.

If your child joins later in the funding period, a late application can be made. If you move your child mid-term the funding will be redistributed between the old and new early years providers.

In both cases, a change of attendance form should be completed by the early years provider and sent to the Finance Team within Brighton & Hove City Council.

Special Needs and the EYFE

If your child is disabled or has significant special needs, further support may be available. Please contact the FIS for further information.

For more information on the EYFS (the framework all early years providers follow) speak to your early years provider, contact the Family Information Service (FIS) for an information leaflet or click here for more information.


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