Early Education places for 3 and 4 year olds

Children are eligible for an early education place from the term after their third birthday. The place starts on 1 January, 1 April or 1 September.

All children are eligibile for 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year. This is a total of 570 hours over the year and are called universal hours.

Working parents may be entitled to an additional 15 hours per week which makes up the 30 hours childcare scheme. These are an additional 570 hours over the year and are called extended hours. To find out if you qualify, see the 30 hours eligibility criteria. There is a central government application process  for the extended hours and you need to get an eligibility code so that the provider can claim for these hours. Find out how to apply for 30 hours.

Finding a place for your child

There is a choice of early education providers such as a school nursery class, preschool playgroup, private day nursery or childminder. Childminders are unable to deliver early education places to their own child or any related child. You can search approved providers on the Trafford Directory to find a place. If you need any support finding a place to meet your needs contact the Family Information Service on 0161 912 1053.

Funding start date

Funding is available from the term after a child's third birthday and terms start on 1 January, 1 April and 1 September. Your free place will continue until your child starts in reception class which is from the September after their 4th birthday.

Your early education provider will ask you to complete a parent contract to collect all the details they require. They will then confirm details of your free place including when the hours will start and when they will be delivered.

If you are requesting the additional 15 hours which is part of the 30 Hours Childcare Scheme, your early education provider will also check your eligibility before confirming your free place.  

Claiming your hours

Your early education provider will claim the hours on your behalf by submitting a termly Headcount form to the local authority. They can make one claim per term based on children registered as attending their setting on a specific day each term, known as Headcount day. Providers are unable to claim any further funding for 3 and 4 year old children during the term. 

Parent/Carers no longer need to complete a funding declaration form for the local authority. 

Receiving your hours

The hours are usually delivered over 38 weeks of the year which is known as term time. It is up to your early education provider to confirm how they can offer you the free hours so the number of hours in a session and the days available may be different at each provider. 

If you are receiving universal hours which every child is entitled too, you can receive 570 hours over the year which is 15 hours per week for 38 weeks. If you are receiving universal and extended hours, you can receive 1140 hours over the year which is 30 hours per week for 38 weeks. Extended hours is part of the 30 Hours Childcare Scheme. 

Some providers who are open all year may let you use less hours per week over the full year. You may find this is an easier way to work out any payments you need to make to your provider for additional hours or services. Talk to your provider about the options they offer. 

Eligibility for 30 Hours

Children are eligible for 30 hours the 1 January, 1 April or 1 September after both of the following conditions are met;

  1. the child has turned three
  2. the child’s parent / carer has a current positive determination of eligibility from HMRC, i.e. a valid 30 hours code.

Children cannot take up a 30 hours place without a valid code or start a new place if their code is in the grace period, your provider will check your code for you. Further information about 30 hours is available.


Your early education hours will be completely free. Government funding is not intended to cover the costs of meals and other consumables, your provider may charge for this but it should not be a condition of your place and providers must offer alternative options for parents. Any additional charges should be agreed in advance and clearly visible on your invoice. It is advisable to check if there are any additional charges prior to taking up your place. 

How to change your early education provider

You must ensure that your current provider is aware you are intending to leave and discuss any notice period with them in line with your contract. You can then change your early education provider at the start of each new term; 1 January, 1 April and 1 September.  

How to move your funding from another local authority

If your child will be moving to a Trafford provider on or before the termly Headcount day they will be able to claim funding for you. If you will be moving after this point they will not be able to make a claim for any funding in that term and your funded place will begin at the start of the next new term. Talk to your new provider about accessing funding with them before your child starts to attend. 

Contact us

Trafford Family Information Service are available Monday to Friday from 8.30am until 4.30pm and can provide further information and advice to parents / carers. They are contactable by telephoning  0161 912 1053 or emailing FIS@trafford.gov.uk 

Expansion of Early Years Entitlements

The government have announced an expansion to the existing early years entitlements starting in April 2024, when eligible working families with 2 year old children will be able to access up to 15 hours per week of early education. Further information including details of when to apply are available.