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Free early education and childcare for three and four year olds

Children aged three and four 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.

Three and four year old free places
Children bornFree place can start
1 April - 31 August1 September (following child's third birthday)
1 September - 31 December1 January (following child's third birthday)
1 January - 31 March1 April (following child's third birthday)
  • You must use the hours over at least two days per week.
  • Sessions must last for at least two hours and 30 minutes and for no more than ten hours.
  • Sessions can not start before 7am or finish after 7pm.

The child can attend any school, nursery or other educational setting regardless of where they live. It does not have to be within Gateshead.

You can use the entitlement across two providers, provided they both agree to this. Not all providers will be able to offer flexibility. They may offer a fixed pattern of hours for the 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 your choice whether to take up extra hours. Providers can only charge for hours after the free entitlement. Any invoices you receive from the provider must identify the free entitlement. You will not have 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 the child may not access their full entitlement.

You will need to agree the days and times of the child's attendance on a declaration form. If the provider agrees you may be able to change the days and time the child attends at the start of the following term. 

How to apply

Contact the provider(s) you want to use and ask if they offer three and four year old free entitlement places. Please access the Family Information Service Directory for details of childcare providers. Contact us if you aren't able to find what you need.

You can report a childcare provider if you have any concerns.

Contact us

Gateshead Families Information Service 
Civic Centre
Regent Street

0191 433 5118

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