Nursery numbers – the future of education

According to a recent survey by the Modern Fatherhood Project, almost one in three families in Britain are headed by parents who both work full-time. For those families with children under the school age that can mean big headaches when it comes to childcare. Thankfully, there is financial help available but how much you receive – and when you receive it – can differ considerably depending on a number of factors.

The current state of play

At present all three and four year olds in the UK are entitled to 570 hours of free early education or childcare each year. Most parents will take this as 15 hours free per week for 38 weeks of the year. To access these free hours it doesn’t matter if you’re working or not or what your income is – it’s a provision for every child.

If you fit certain eligibility criteria however you may also be able to access free childcare or early education when your child is two years old. If you receive income support, for example, or income related Employment Support Allowance, or if you have an annual income of under £16,190 and you receive tax credits you may be eligible. Children who receive Disability Living Allowance or have special education needs are also eligible for free early childcare. You can find out if you meet the criteria by visiting

The date your free hours become available depends on your child’s birthday. If you child has a birthday between 1 January and 31 March, your free hours will kick in on the first day of term on or after 1 April. For birthdays between 1 April and 31 August the provision will be available from the first day of term on or after 1 September. And for birthdays between 1 September and 31 December you can start claiming free hours from the first day of term on or after 1 January.

The future

Given the fact we are just weeks away from a General Election and therefore a possible change in leadership it’s difficult to make any guarantees about what’s on the horizon for just about anything at the moment. However, what we do know is that, as things stand, from September 2017 it will be possible to access 30 free hours of childcare a week.
Unless things change, from September parents who both work at least 16 hours per week (or where one parent works and the other has been assessed as being unable to work) will be able to claim 30 hours free childcare a week for three and four year olds (unless either parents earns more than £100,000 a year).

How to choose a nursery

Finances aside, choosing early years education can be a difficult decision for parents. The Family and Childcare Trust provides a checklist of questions to ask to ensure you’re choosing the right environment for your little ones including:  What is the ratio of staff to children? What qualifications and/or experience do the staff have? And what are their policies on discipline and managing children’s behaviour? You can find out more by visiting

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