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Frequently Asked Questions | 30 hours free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds - Parents Information | Sandwell Council

30 hours free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds - Parents Information

Frequently Asked Questions

How many weeks of the year is 30 hours available?

Working families are entitled to 30 hours in each of the 38 weeks of the academic year. Parents can choose to stretch this offer over up to 52 weeks of the year where this meets their childcare needs, for instance 22 hours a week for 52 weeks, or just under 24 hours for 48 weeks.

Is it childcare or early education?

All funded provision must deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage framework. There is no difference in the education and care standards which must be met for both the universal 15 hour and extended 30 hour entitlements.

Can I use any childcare setting that I like?

All Ofsted registered childcare providers across Sandwell will be able to offer the additional 15 hours childcare for eligible parents/carers if they have the space to do so.  It is a provider’s choice whether they deliver the 30 hours entitlement or not. They can choose to offer some or all of the hours. Parents are free to shop around to find appropriate funded provision.

Do I have to take up the full 30 hours?

No you can chose to take as many hours as you need, however, you will need to check with your childcare provider if they are able to accomodate your requirements. 

What if my provider is full and they cannot offer the extra hours that I need?

The majority of providers in Sandwell work in close partnerships with other providers in their local area to deliver early education and childcare provision therefore they may be able to signpost you to other local provision which can meet your needs.  The Family Information Service will also be able to provide you with details of other childcare provision available within the area that you are seeking childcare. They can be contacted on 0121 569 4914 or email

How will quality be maintained?

Providers will be expected to maintain a clear focus on the experience of children and the quality of their provision and as such, all funded hours must meet Early Years Foundation Stage and Ofsted requirements.

Can I split the hours over more than one setting?

Yes, parents are allowed to split their free childcare across two providers per day.

Can I use my free childcare across the whole year?

Yes, the extended childcare offer has been introduced to support parents to have better access to more flexible childcare whilst at work, and to enable you to increase the number of hours worked. This means you can use your childcare to cover school holidays if you need to. If you use your childcare in term time only you will be entitled to 30 hours free childcare per week. If you use it over the whole year, you will be entitled to approximately 22.6 hours per week.

Do I already need to be attending the childcare provider that I am planning to send my child to when the additional hours begin in September?

No, your child does not need to be currently attending a provider in order to claim their free hours there - the only requirements are that the provider you apply to is Ofsted registered and approved to offer Free Early Education (FEE) places, and that they have space to take your child.

My child has special needs - will they receive sufficient care in the additional funded hours?

Every family should have access to good quality childcare that meets their needs. The Government is considering ways to make sure providers have adequate support to meet the requirements of children with special educational needs and disabilities in the additional funded hours.

Are the 30 hours totally free?

Some providers may charge for meals, snacks or optional extras as these may not always be included within the universal / extended entitlement. If you take more than your total entitlement there is likely to be a charge from your provider for these additional hours. Please check with your provider for full details of any additional charges.

Will the 15 hour entitlements continue?

All three and four year olds, and the most disadvantaged two-year olds, continue to be entitled to 15 hours early education a week.

Further information

If you require any further information on the 30 hours free childcare - 3 and 4 year old extended entitlement please contact Sandwell Family Information Service on 0121 569 4914 or visit for further details.