UK opens up free early learning to 9 month olds from 12 May
The Sector > Jobs News > UK opens up free early learning to 9 month olds from 12 May

UK opens up free early learning to 9 month olds from 12 May

by Freya Lucas

March 18, 2024

Applications for the second phase of the UK Government’s largest ever expansion of ‘free childcare’ in England’s history will open on 12 May, allowing parents of nine month old children to access free early childhood education. 


From 12 May, eligible working parents of children from 9 months of age will be able to register to access 15 hours of government-funded early childhood education and care (ECEC) a week, with the offer beginning from September 2024. 


The rollout, which is being closely monitored by policy makers around the world, is expected to see “hundreds of thousands of parents” access support with the cost of early childhood education for the first time, saving parents using the full 30 hours from September 2025 nearly £7,000 (approx. AUD$13,500) a year.


Key to the success of the measure will be the presence of ‘childminders’ who operate in a similar fashion to Australia’s Family Day Care (FDC) educators. 


“Childminders are a key part of the childcare market, which is why the government is taking steps to increase childminder numbers and offer more flexible childcare to parents,” a statement from the UK Government notes. 


“A new consultation launched today will ask childminders, parents, providers and local authorities for their thoughts on how the government can further support more childminders to join and stay in the profession.”


The first phase of the expansion provided 15 hours of free care to the working parents of two year old children, with over 150,000 children initially set to benefit in April. This, the Government said, “is just the first phase” of the historic rollout, and will save parents over £500 million (approx. AUD$970 million) in early childhood costs.


To support the roll out a number of other initiatives have been put in place to increase the number of staff in the sector, including a recently launched national recruitment campaign.


Places will be available for September in every area of the country, but a significant minority of settings hold waiting lists over six months, so parents are encouraged to ‘act now’ to secure their place for September if they have a preferred provider.


Parents can check their eligibility at, and can read up on the application process on the Education Hub.

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button