Nursery funding for 3 and 4-year-olds

Nursery education funding (NEF)

All 3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to access up to 15 hours a week of free part-time early education. Children who go to a local authority nursery, primary school or academy automatically have the education costs paid for by the local education authority.

Children who attend a private, voluntary or independent nursery can apply for funding. The funding pays for the equivalent of up to 570 hours per year per child.

How to use the NEF

You can use up to 15 hours per week, over 38 weeks per year. The entitlement is flexible and can be used over a minimum of two days per week. If a provider is open for more than 38 weeks a year, then funding can be spread over the period that they are open. This will be dependent on whether a provider can accommodate this.

Extended entitlement

Some parents are eligible to receive an additional 15 hours free childcare. See details on 30 hours free childcare: extended entitlement.

Additional costs

Parents will be expected to pay for any additional services or hours of childcare over and above the entitlement. Once you have chosen a childcare provider, we advise that you set up a formal agreement that clearly states what is being provided and at what cost. Government funding is intended to cover the cost to deliver 15 or 30 hours a week of free, high quality, flexible childcare. It is not intended to cover the cost of meals, consumables, additional hours or additional services. 

The agreement between the carer and childcare provider

A contract is agreed between the parent/carer and the childcare provider. It outlines what both of you are expected to do regarding the care of your child. It is very important that you are aware of what commitment you are agreeing to in case any problems arise in the future. Terms and conditions can include: 

  • details of any fee or deposit to secure your child’s place
  • the date the contract starts
  • what is included in the cost, such as nappies, food or days out
  • the days and hours your child will be with the childcare provider
  • what happens if your child or the childcare provider is sick
  • what happens during time off for holidays and bank holidays
  • the notice period you need to give for holidays
  • any personal preferences such as limiting your child’s screen time
  • any health issues that need to be managed such as allergies
  • the notice period to terminate the contract and if there is any payment due

It is a good idea to be clear about what you expect from each other from the start. Once the details of the contract have been agreed it should be signed and dated by all parties. Each party should retain a copy.


Ofsted registers and inspects childcare for children aged from birth to 17 years.

Address: The National Business Unit
Piccadilly Gate
Store Street
M1 2WD

Telephone: 0300 123 1231