15 hours funded childcare for ALL 3 & 4 year olds

This is a universal entitlement for ALL 3 and 4 year olds. Children become eligible for their funded early education place the term after their 3rd birthday and this place is available until they reach compulsory school age (the term after their 5th birthday)

What is a funded early education place?

This is what a child is entitled to from the term following their third birthday. It is paid for by the Government, through Doncaster Council who directly pays the school or childcare provider to deliver the place.

When can my child take up their funded early education place?

Your child will be able to take up their place from the term after their 3rd birthday. For example, if your child turned three in October, they would be entitled to take up their funded place from the beginning of the spring term, which starts in January. 

If your child’s 3rd birthday is on or between:

Your child will be entitled to a funded place from:

1st January to 31st March

Summer Term (April onwards)

1st April to 31st August

Autumn Term (September onwards)

1st September to 31st December

Spring Term (January onwards)

How many hours does my child get in a funded early education place?

  • Your child is entitled to access up to 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year (term time), which equates to 570 hours over a year.
  • The traditional offer of a place at a school nursery or with a sessional provider (sometimes known as a pre-school or playgroup) is for children to attend either five mornings or five afternoons a week, term time (38 weeks).
  • You may be able to choose a different pattern of attendance depending on which childcare provider or school you choose to use. Some schools and childcare providers do offer the early education places ‘flexibly’. A flexible offer could include a choice of full and half days or the opportunity to ‘stretch’ the hours across more than 38 weeks of the year. An example of a stretched offer would be 11 hours a week for 51 weeks of the year. You need to discuss with the school or childcare provider of your choice what their offer is.
  • The early education place can be taken at a maximum of two sites per day – which means you may use any combination of school nursery and childcare providers to access the entitlement hours, up to two sites a day.

Where can my child take up their early education place?

You can apply for a school nursery place or choose a childcare provider. If your choice is a childcare provider you will need to check they are included on the Doncaster Councils Directory of Funded Providers. The Directory has different types of childcare providers on it and you need to decide what type of provision will best meet your needs.

  • School Nursery: these offer places for 3 and 4 year olds and are part of a school. Some schools may also provide places for 2 year olds
  • Day Nursery: these nurseries open all day and usually provide childcare for children aged 0 to 5 years old
  • Sessional Providers: these may be called a pre-school or playgroup and operate on a sessional basis which is usually for three hours at a time and provide childcare for 2 to 5 year olds
  • Childminders: provide childcare in their own home, usually open all day and have a range of ages from 0 to 8 years old. They may sometimes care for older children as well
  • Independent Schools: these offer places for 3 and 4 year olds and are part of a school.
You will need to check if the type of childcare provider you would prefer to use is available in your area and registered on the Directory of Funded Providers. Every childcare provider will have their own admission procedures and may have a limited number of places. It is important that you check if there are any places available and you follow the childcare providers’ admissions process so you can confirm you have secured a place for your child. The entitlement to a funded place does not offer a guarantee of a place at any one particular school/childcare provision or a particular pattern of provision. 

Do I need an eligibility code/letter to access the 15 hours funding?

No, you do not need an eligibility code or letter to access the 15 hours funding as this is a universal entitlement for all 3 and 4 year olds in England. You may, however, need to provide proof of your child's date of birth (such as their birth certificate) - your childcare provider can give you more information on what documents they require.

What do I need to do?

To apply for an early education place with a:

  • School nursery, you can apply online or complete an application form which is available from the Doncaster Councils Admissions Team, telephone: 01302 736000. When a school nursery place has been confirmed, it will be the school who decides which session a child will attend. Whilst schools make every effort to take parents preferred sessions into account, it must be understood that it is not always possible to meet everyone’s requests.
  • Childcare provider or independent school, you need to check with them they are included in the Directory of Funded Providers, find out if they have any places available and ask how they offer these places. You will need to follow the provider’s admission policy and administration process to secure a place. 

Your child must have taken up a place by ‘Headcount Date’ to secure the early education funding for their place at the school / childcare provision. 

You will be required to complete and sign a Parent Declaration Form which gives the school / childcare provider authorisation to claim the early education funding on behalf of your child. 

The Council will not make an adjustment to funding allocations for children that move between school / childcare providers mid-term. Therefore, you should understand that should you decide to move mid-term it cannot be guaranteed a funded place would be available elsewhere. 

How do I find out what childcare providers are in my area?

  • You can see what school nurseries and childcare providers are available by using the Families Information Service Childcare and Schools Finder
  • You can contact the Families Information Service to have providers sent via email on fis@doncaster.gov.uk - all queries will be responded to within three working days

Will I have to pay anything for my child's early education place?

Your child's early education place is paid for by the Government, however, schools/childcare providers can charge for meals, consumables (such as nappies and sun cream), additional activities (such as trips) or additional hours (hours that are taken over and above the funded entitlement hours). If you choose to pay for meals, consumables or additional hours, this is a private arrangement between yourself and the school/childcare provider. 

You must not be required to pay any fee as a condition of taking up a funded early education place.

Schools/childcare providers should be open and transparent about any additional charges - this ensure you have a clear choice and know the cost of any extras you may wish to purchase. You should also be made aware of the options available to you if you do not wish to purchase any extras, for example, you may supply your own consumables or a meal / snack for your child. 

Can I move my child's funding to a different childcare provider?

You can move your child's early education funding at the start of each term (January, April, September) before headcount date; if you choose to move your child to another childcare setting before headcount date then you may incur fees for the childcare accessed with the original childcare provider.

In special circumstances, we may allow you to move your child's funding after headcount.

What is headcount day?

Headcount day is a date set each term when children accessing their early education funding in early years settings are counted. This information is submitted to Doncaster Council so we can pay the setting for your child’s funded childcare.

Your child will be still be counted, if headcount day falls on a day that your child doesn’t normally attend, as long as they attend their regular days during the week. Your child will also still be counted if they have accessed funding this term but are temporarily away from the setting on headcount day/ the week headcount day takes place, e.g. if your child is unable to attend during the week because they’re ill.

I’m moving into Doncaster, what happens to my child’s funding?

If you have moved to Doncaster and you can no longer access your child’s existing funded childcare place then you will need to contact us. We will need to verify that your child is eligible for the funding, either by seeing a copy of your eligibility letter from your old local authority, carrying out a new eligibility check or confirming with your old local authority that your child was eligible for the funding. Once we have done this, we can issue you with a Doncaster eligibility code and letter. This can be given to your new childcare provider so they can claim the funding from us.

If you have moved into the area partway through the term then, depending on the date, you may need to seek approval for your child to access the funding during the current term. To do this, you can contact us by emailing earlyeducation@doncaster.gov.uk


You move to Doncaster in November and wish to use the funding immediately. As this is partway through the term, you may need approval for your child to access their funding that term. If you wanted your child to start their funding from January, you wouldn’t need approval from us as this is the start of a new term.

I’m moving out of Doncaster, what happens to my child’s funding?

If you’re moving out of Doncaster and your child will no longer be able to access their existing childcare place then you will need to contact your new local authority to determine when your child can use their funding with a new childcare provider.

If you wish to use the funding partway through the term then it is the new local authority’s decision whether or not they will allow this.

The new local authority will need to verify your child is eligible for the funding; they may do this by carrying out a new eligibility check, asking to see evidence of your previous eligibility or contacting us so we can confirm your child’s was eligible for the funding.


If you have any questions about three and four year old funding, please contact Families Information Service on the details below:

Last updated: 23 February 2024 12:50:08

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