Skip to main content

Free early education entitlement for three to four-year-olds

The free early education entitlement (FEEE) is a government programme giving all three to four-year-olds up to a maximum of 15 hours of free early education per week. This is calculated over a maximum of 38 weeks, equivalent to 570 hours per year. Providers can offer funded places as a 'stretched offer' where funded hours are calculated pro rata up to a maximum of 52 weeks.

Free entitlement funding comes from central Government to the local authority, who determine funding rates locally and make payments to providers. No direct payments are ever made to parents.

Some children may also be eligible to receive the free early education entitlement for two-year-olds.

To offer the free entitlement all providers, including childminders, need to:

  • Be registered with Ofsted
  • Have an Ofsted judgement of Outstanding, Good or Requires Improvement
  • Have a separate dedicated bank account for the relevant childcare provision
  • Have a funding contract with Essex County Council (ECC)
  • Have access to the internet and an email account.

In addition, newly registered providers are eligible to offer the FEEE before their first Ofsted inspection. However, the outcome of their Ofsted inspection will determine whether they can continue offering the FEEE.

If you meet these requirements you can apply for a contract by completing the early years provider registration form. A contract will be issued once all the necessary details have been supplied and confirmed by the Essex County Council Early Years and Childcare team. The contract must then be signed and returned by you before funding can begin.

Please Note: FEEE funding is paid to providers once they have uploaded child details onto the Early Years Portal at the termly headcount, details of which can be found on our data collection page. ECC will endeavour to make payments to providers as quickly as possible after headcount day but they should not rely on receiving these sooner than seven weeks after the headcount day, as this is the contracted payment timescales committed to.


Details of when to submit headcount data to us can be found in the headcount data collection dates table (revised October 2019) - PDF,126KB.

April 2020 to March 2021

You can only claim FEEE for the number of weeks specified between the school term dates. These make up the 38 funded weeks in the 2020 / 21 financial year.

Term Inclusive term dates Duration of FEEE Equivalent in hours
Summer 2020 20 April 2020 to 22 July 2020 13 weeks 13 weeks x 15 hours = 195 hours
Autumn 2020 2 September 2020 to 18 December 2020 14 weeks 14 weeks x 15 hours - 210 hours
Spring 2021 4 January 2021 to 26 March 2021 11 weeks 11 weeks x 15 hours = 165 hours

Relevant resources