West Berkshire Council

Free Childcare for Three and Four Year Olds

Free childcare through childminders, preschools, private nurseries or nurseries

15 hours Universal entitlement

All three and four year old children living in West Berkshire are entitled to 570 hours of free childcare per year, from the start of term following their third birthday. This is usually taken as 15 hours over 38 weeks. Some providers will allow you to 'stretch' the hours over 52 weeks, using fewer hours per week. 

30 hours extended entitlement

Three and four year olds of eligible working parents are entitled to a further 15 hours per week (an additional 570 hours per year). 

You can't get 30 hours free childcare if either you, or your partner, each individually expect to earn £100,000 or more. 

To keep your 30 hours free childcare place, you need to check your details are up to date every three months. Sign in to your account to renew your 30 hour childcare code.

You can apply for 30 hours free childcare online

Am I eligible?

You, and any partner, must each earn, on average, at least £125 per week. This is equal to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage for those aged 25 plus.

If you, or your partner, are on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or you're unable to work because you are disabled or have caring responsibilities you could still be eligible. 

What isn't covered?

The 15 hours universal and 30 hours extended childcare offer is not intended to cover the cost of meals, other consumables (such as nappies or sun cream), additional hours or additional activities (such as trips). Providers may charge an extra fee for these additions. If you choose to pay for these, it is an arrangement between you and the childcare provider. However, you must not be required to pay any fee as a condition of taking up a 15 or 30 hours place, and must be offered alternative options. 

Tax free childcare is also offer to support families with the cost of childcare. You can find out more about these schemes on the Childcare Choices website.

How does it work?

West Berkshire Council pay participating providers for the childcare you use - just get in touch with the providers of your choice to make arrangements.
Parents should never end up with any invoices or bills for accessing these services as long as they're within what we've agreed to pay for. 

Some rules apply to claiming free childcare hours:

  • you can only share your free hours between a maximum of two different sites per day
  • there is no minimum session length, but it must not be longer than 10 hours
  • free hours can't be taken before 6am or after 8pm
  • sessions can take place on any day of the week, including Saturday and Sunday

Please note: funding cannot be claimed for four year olds that are attending school in the September following their fourth birthday.

Eligibility Dates

Children become eligible for funding on the dates set out below:

Born between Eligible from (following third birthday)
1 April - 31 August 1 September* (Autumn Term)
1 September - 31 December1 January* (Spring Term)
1 January and 31 March1 April (Summer Term)

*Actual start dates will vary in line with West Berkshire School Term Dates - these will not necessarily start on the first day of the month.

If you would like our help in finding an Early Years Provider for your child, please visit our West Berkshire Directory, or contact us.

Extra funding such as the Early Years Pupil Premium and Disability Access Fund are also available for childcare providers to spend on your child's learning and development where applicable.