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Free early education for children aged 3 and 4


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Children aged 3 and 4 are entitled to 15 hours of free early education a week for 38 weeks per year. Children become eligible at the start of the term following their third birthday.

Children born:

Free place can start:

1 April to 31 August

1 September (following child’s 3rd birthday)

1 September to 31 December

1 January (following child’s 3rd birthday)

1 January to 31 March

1 April (following child’s 3rd birthday)

  • The hours must be spread over a minimum of two days per week.
  • Sessions must last for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes and for no more than 8 hours.
  • Sessions can not start before 7am or finish after 7pm.

Parents are free to use a school, nursery or other educational setting outside of Gateshead, regardless of where the child lives.

The entitlement can be taken across a maximum of two providers, provided they both agree to this. Not all providers will be able to offer flexibility and may offer a fixed pattern of hours for your child to attend.

Some providers will offer the option of having less hours each week over more weeks. This is often called "stretching" the entitlement.

It is the parent's choice whether to take up additional hours. Providers must only charge parents for any hours after the first 15. Any invoices parents receive from their provider must identify the free entitlement. Parents will not be made to pay for a uniform or a registration fee, if only attending for 15 hours.

Providers often stagger children's start dates, to make starting school or nursery easier. This could mean a child may not access their full entitlement.

Parents will be asked to agree the days and times of their child's attendance on a declaration form. You may not be able to change days and times of attendance until the start of the next term, and then only with the agreement of the provider.

How to apply

Contact the provider(s) you may want to use directly and ask if they offer 3 and 4 year old free entitlement places. If your needs cannot be met, please contact the Family Information Service using the details at the bottom of the page.

What can I do if I don't feel happy with my provider?

You may wish to raise your concerns with the management of the setting first. If your issues remain unresolved you can contact either the Family Information Service using the contact details below or contact Ofsted on 0300 123 1231. If you are using a school you should follow their complaints procedure.

Contact us

Gateshead Family Information Service
Civic Centre, Regent Street, Gateshead NE8 1HH

Tel: 0191 433 5118