Research shows that alongside good parenting, high-quality part-time early years education helps give children of this age a great start, providing a solid foundation for the future.
The 24U scheme offers 15 hours of free early years education to eligible children. Use the information on this page to find out more about the scheme, whether your child is eligible and how to apply.
How will 24U help my child?
Your child will benefit greatly by having pre-school experience with a 'good' or 'outstanding' pre-school nursery or childminder. This period of time for your child is known as the Early Years Foundation Stage. Children who take up a 24U place will be making friends, having fun and learning all the time. The childcare provider will make sure your child’s needs are met to help them feel secure and confident about starting school when the time comes.
Research tells us that children who have high-quality pre-school experiences are more likely to be successful adults. So don’t delay, sign up today and help your child to learn through play!
Is my child entitled to this free early years education?
If you can answer 'yes' to one or more of the following questions your child may be eligible to receive 15 hours of free early years education per week over 38 weeks of the year, from the beginning of the term after they turn two years old:
- Has your child left care through special guardianship or an adoption or residence order?
- Is the place for a child who is 'looked after' by a local council?
- Does your child have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan (ECHP)?
- Does your child get disability living allowance (DLA)?
- Do you receive income support?
- Do you receive income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA)?
- Do you receive income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)?
- Do you receive support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act?
- Do you receive the guaranteed element of state pension credits?
- Do you receive the working tax credit four week run-on?
- Do you receive tax credits and have an annual income less than £16,190?
- Do you receive universal credit and have an annual income less than £15,400?
- Do you receive child tax credits and have an annual income not exceeding £16,190?
- Do you get tax credits and earn no more than £16,190 a year?
Will my benefits be affected?
If you receive childcare tax credits, and use some or all of your free 24U childcare entitlement to reduce the overall cost of any existing childcare, you need to inform the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), as this may affect your payments.
When is my child eligible?
If you meet the criteria you're entitled to the free place from the term following your child's second birthday:
- If your child was born between 1 January and 31 March you're entitled to the place from the summer term (after Easter)
- If your child was born between 1 April and 31 August you're entitled to the place from the autumn term (September)
- If your child was born between 1 September and 31 December you're entitled to the place from the spring term (January)
Where can my child attend?
The quality of childcare and nursery education for two year olds is very important. We work with early learning providers (pre-schools, playgroups, nurseries and childminders) who have been judged by Ofsted to be 'good' or 'outstanding' and are committed to improving their provision.
For details of these providers please contact the Family Information Service or ask your local childcare provider wherever you see the 24U logo.
What will my child get?
A free early education/childcare place comprises 15 hours a week over 38 weeks, or a total of 570 hours which can be taken flexibly/stretched over the year (where the parent requests this and the provider is able to do this).
However, this must be taken over a minimum of two days per week, and between two-and-a-half hours and ten hours in any one day. If the offer is accessed over fewer than two days, then a portion of the offer will be lost.
Once a place has been agreed for a child, it will remain funded until the child becomes entitled to a free early education place at three years, even where the family circumstances change and they may no longer meet the criteria.
Will my child receive a free school meal?
For some children, eligibility for a place is based on entitlement to free school meals. However, this doesn't mean a child will receive a free school meal. Parents should therefore be advised that where their child accesses their free entitlement over a lunch period, the setting can make a reasonable charge for lunch, or offer parents the opportunity to bring a healthy packed lunch. Parents should be made aware of this by the childcare provider.
How do I apply?
You may receive a letter and application form in the post from us asking if you'd like to apply. This is because the council receives a list from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of families who may be eligible.
Alternatively, you can apply online here simply by clicking on the green button.Apply now »
If you prefer, you can download the application form attached to this page, or collect one from your local library, children’s centre, your health visitor, childcare provider, primary school or our Family Information Service on 01743 254400.
When your completed application form is received we'll carry out an online eligibility check, which is why we need your date of birth and national insurance number. We'll confirm in writing if your child is eligible. You then need to take your confirmation letter along with you to your chosen childcare provider when you arrange their start date.
How can children's centres help my family?
Sure Start children’s centres aim to improve outcomes for families. They work across Shropshire in communities with all families in different ways. We provide advice, support, information and practical sessions including:
- Home visiting offering 1:1 help, advice and support on a range of topics
- Support for children and parents with additional needs and/or disabilities
- Support around jobs, training and money and healthy lifestyles
- Stay-and-play sessions and a variety of free courses
To find out more take a look at their webpages or call:
- North: 01691 656513
- Central: 01743 452400
- South: 01694 723465