Early years

Most children in Stoke-on-Trent experience early learning and childcare before they start in Reception classes. At this age, children do not have to access any provision, but this often helps children to experience new things, increases their independence; and supports their speech and language. Childcare also helps parents to go to work or access training.

The main types of childcare that parents use are:

  • Registered childminders - working in their own homes caring for a small number of children for a range of ages
  • Day nurseries - Looking after a larger number of children, usually from 8am - 6pm (usually open all year round)
  • Pre-schools - Usually open five mornings per week but can often provide afternoon sessions (usually term-time only)
  • School nursery classes and nursery schools - Many schools have nursery classes where children can start in the September following your child turning three. For more information, speak to your local school or visit www.stoke.gov.uk/admissions

Your choice of provider will depend on your child and family’s needs. All childcare providers in the city should have a good understanding of special education needs and disabilities, so it is important to discuss the needs of your child with provider(s) before you make a decision.

Funded places for three and four-year-olds

All three and four-year-olds in Stoke-on-Trent are entitled to funded early learning and childcare. Children are entitled to up to 15 hours of education each week, usually over 38 weeks each year during school term time (570 hours), although some settings may ‘stretch’ the entitlement and offer you less hours over more weeks, for example 11 hours each week over 51 weeks. If your child is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance then your childcare provider can apply for a small amount of funding through the Disability Access Fund. This funding is used by childcare providers to improve your child’s access to provision. Three and four-year-old children with working parents may be eligible to receive up to 30 hours of funded childcare.

How to apply for 30 hours funded childcare for working parents

All 3 and 4-year-olds in England already get 15 hours a week, or 570 hours a year of funded early education. If their parents are living and working in England, 3 and 4-year-olds may be entitled to 30 hours funded childcare. An extra 570 hours of funded childcare a year, so 1140 hours in total.

You, and any partner, must each expect to earn (on average) the equivalent of working 16 hours a week at your national minimum wage (£125 at the National Living Wage, less if you are on the National Minimum Wage).

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

You may get asked for further information as part of your application, so apply well ahead of the start date for each term.

To keep your 30 hours funded childcare place you need to check your details are up to date every 3 months.

When you apply, you'll be confirming that you need childcare so that you and your partner, if you have one, can work. If your child's already in a full-time reception class in a state funded school, you won't be eligible for 30 hours funded childcare.

Does my two year-old qualify for funded childcare and education?

Two-year-old children with special educational needs or disabilities are often entitled to up to 15 hours early learning and childcare. To be eligible, children must meet the following criteria:

  • your child has a current statement of special educational need (SEN) or an education, health and care plan (EHC)
  • your child receives disability living allowance

If your child meets any of these criteria and you want to apply for a funded childcare place then please contact 01782 232200 and press option one.

If your child does not meet the above criteria then you could still be entitled to funded childcare and early education if you or they receive one or more of the following:

  • income support
  • income-based Jobseekers' Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • universal credit - for places starting in the summer term of 2018 (on or after April 1, 2018) or any following term, if a parent is entitled to universal credit, they must have an annual net (after taxes) earned income equal to or not more than £15,400. This is based on up to three of the parent's most recent universal credit assessment periods
  • tax credits and they have an annual income of less than £16,190 before tax
  • the guaranteed element of state pension credit
  • support through part six of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • the working tax credit four-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for working tax credit)

Two-year-olds also qualify who:

For further information or to apply, visit Stoke.gov.uk - Free childcare information or contact 01782 232200 and select option one.

  • are looked after by their local authority
  • have left care through an adoption, special guardianship or child arrangement order
When can you start claiming funded childcare?

Funded early learning and childcare is usually available from the start of the term after the child's birthday for both two and three-year-olds.

If your child was born between: They will be eligible for a funded childcare place:
January 1 and March 31 from the beginning of the term on or after April 1 (summer term)
April 1 and August 31 from the beginning of the term on or after September 1 (autumn term)
September 1 and December 31 from the beginning of the term on or after January 1 (spring term)
Other financial support for childcare

There is a range of financial support for parents using childcare.

You can find out more by visiting www.childcarechoices.gov.uk.

Providers can also apply for the SEN Inclusion Fund for children with lower level and emerging needs. This funding should help providers to meet the needs of individual children and to support their learning and development. Parents should speak to their provider about this funding and how it could be used to support their child.

Things you might wish to check with your childcare provider

When you visit a childcare provider, you may want to check the following, in relation to caring for your child:

  • Ofsted grade and report, available at www.ofsted.gov.uk
  • Staff qualifications, training and experience in relation to your child’s needs
  • Is there a clear understanding or your child’s needs or disability?
  • How the provider will prepare for your child going to their new school or room
  • Whether the setting will need to make adaptations to rooms to meet the needs of your child
  • How play activities will be adapted to meet your child’s needs so that they have similar experiences as other children
  • How many children are there to each member of staff?
  • How you'll get updates on what your child has done, enjoyed and learnt and how you'll raise concerns
  • If they have specialist resources or equipment to meet your child’s needs (if applicable)
  • How they work with other professionals who might work with your child.