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Is there such a thing as free childcare in the UK?

As many families in the UK will be able to tell, education can be very expensive on the British island.

The State school system is free, that is the good news. However, because school is only compulsory from Reception class (age 4/5) onwards, parents need to pay from their own pocket if they wish their children to attend a nursery before the school age.

However, there is some good news: few people know that families can get some part-time free childcare and education from age 3.

According to this government scheme, each 3 to 4-year-old child in England can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. It is usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year.

Families can start claiming on the first day of the term after their child turns three.

For example:

–          for a child born between 1st January and 31st March, parents could get a grant at the beginning of the term on or after 1st April

–          for a child born between 1 April and 31 August parents could get a grant at the beginning of term on or after 1st September and

–          for a child born between 1 September and 31 December parents could get a grant at the beginning of term on or after 1 January.

The only requirement is that the childcare provider should be an approved childcare provider.

That can be:

–          A registered childminder, play scheme, nursery or club

–          A childminder with an Ofsted-registered childminding agency

–          A registered school

–          A home care worker working for a registered home care agency

But the big change in this scheme is that from September 2017, the free hours of childcare are increasing. Consequently, three- and four-year-old in England will be entitled to 30 free hours of care per week in term time, under the condition that both parents work, with a maximum income of £100,000 per parent per year.

These are welcome news for families, particularly in London where budgets are already stretched by high levels of rent.

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