Free Early Education Entitlement for 3 - 4 year olds

Photo of child's hand on a calculatorWhat is Free Early Education Entitlement?

The Free Entitlement is a government programme giving all 3 - 4-year-olds up to a maximum of 15 hours of free education/childcare per week.  This is calculated over a maximum of 38 weeks, equivalent to 570 hours per year.  Providers can offer funded places as a 'stretched offer' where funded hours are calculated pro rata up to a maximum period of 50 weeks.

Free Entitlement funding comes from central government to the local authority, who then set the funding rates and make payments to providers.  No direct payments are ever made to parents.

You may also be eligible to receive the Free Entitlement for 2 year olds, please refer to our FEEE2 page.

To offer the Free Entitlement all providers (including childminders) need to:

  • be registered with Ofsted
  • have an Ofsted judgement of Outstanding, Good or Satisfactory
  • have a separate dedicated bank account for the relevant childcare provision
  • have a funding contract with Essex County Council
  • have access to the internet and an email account

In addition, newly registered providers are eligible to offer the FEEE before their first Ofsted inspection.  However, the outcome of their Ofsted inspection will determine whether they can continue offering the FEEE.

If you meet these requirements you can apply for a contract by completing the Early Years Provider Registration Form.  A contract will be issued once all the necessary details have been supplied and confirmed by the Essex County Council team.  The contract must then be signed and returned by you before funding can begin.

Please Note:  FEEE funding is paid to providers once they have uploaded child details onto the Early Years Portal at the termly headcount (details of which can be found on our Data Collection page).  ECC will endeavor to make payments to providers as quickly as possible after headcount day but they should not rely on receiving these sooner than 7 weeks after the headcount day, as this is the contracted payment timescales committed to.

Childcare Business Grant Scheme

If you are setting up as an early years childminder or childminder agency (CMA), you could be eligible for a DfE grant of up to £1000. The scheme is only open to those who have been registered with Ofsted or a CMA for less than three months and is run on a first come, first served basis. Visit the Childcare Business Grant Scheme website for full details. 

Disability Access Fund (DAF)

If you provide FEEE places for any 3 or 4-year-olds who receive disability living allowance (DLA), your setting is eligible to receive disability access funding, which is £615 per child. This is a one-off payment paid to a provider on an annual basis (one payment per financial year). Payments can be made from the start of the 2017/18 financial year (April 2017). The payment can only be made to one provider and cannot be split so where a child received provision at more than one provider the parent will need to decide which setting will receive the DAF payment. 

The purpose of the DAF is to help the childcare provider make reasonable adjustments at their setting to improve the child's access to free early education. It is paid directly to the childcare provider and they need to work with the parent to decide how it should be spent. The DAF cannot be used towards childcare fees or providing more FEEE hours.

The process for qualification is as follows:

  • Parents of children qualifying for Disability Living Allowance will be required to provide you with evidence of this entitlement. You will need to take copy of any documentation that is provided to prove this.
  • The provider is required to submit an application via the Disability Access Fund process in the Provider Portal. Copies of the evidence and the parent agreement form will be required.
  • A spot payment will then be made to that provider for their annual payment.
  • The parent will be required to provide evidence on an annual basis – payment in any further financial years will not be automatic. The process will need to be followed every financial year that the child qualifies for additional payment.

Any questions should be directed to earlyyearsdata@essex.gov.uk in the first instance. More information on DAF is also available on hmrc.gov.uk.


Please note: you can only claim FEEE for the number of weeks specified between the school term dates, eg in the spring term 2019, if you start your term at the same time as the school term your 11 funded weeks will finish on 29 March, a week earlier than the school term. This is because the 38 weeks of FEEE run over a financial year which finishes at the end of March, rather than an academic year which finishes later. Please also note that because of the late Easter in 2019 there are only 12 funded weeks in the summer term, there will be 14 funded weeks in autumn and 12 funded weeks in spring 2020, these make up the 38 funded weeks in the 2019/20 financial year. However this does mean that children who start their FEEE in the 2018/19 academic year and start school in autumn 2019 will only receive 37 weeks of FEEE at an early years setting, however they will receive their EYFS early education entitlement in the school reception class.

Term  Inclusive term dates  Duration of FEEE Equivalent in hours 
Spring 2019 03/01/2019 to 05/04/2019 11 weeks 11 wks x 15 hrs = 165 hours
Summer 2019
23/04/2019 to 24/07/2019
12 weeks
12 wks x 15 hrs = 180 hours
Autumn 2019
03/09/2019 to 19/12/2019
14 weeks
14 wks x 15 hrs = 210 hours
Spring 2020
06/01/2020 to 03/04/2020
12 weeks
12 wks x 15 hrs = 180 hours
Also in the funding section ......