FEEE_Guide for Parents_April 15_Final (PRESS TO DOWNLOAD)
The answers to the frequently asked questions in this guide seek to explain how Essex County Council (ECC) funds free early education for eligible two year olds and all three and four year olds in day nurseries, pre-schools, childminders and nursery classes/schools. These early years providers are known as the maintained, and private, voluntary and independent (PVI) sectors. Before an early years childcare provider can deliver the Free Early Education Entitlement (FEEE) they must have a contract with ECC. This forms a binding agreement between them and ECC and states that they must abide by the conditions and requirements of the contract and the Department for Education (DfE) ‘Early Education and Childcare: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities September 2014’.
What is the Free Early Education Entitlement?
The FEEE is at the heart of the Government’s vision for all children to have access to high quality early years education.
Evidence shows that regular good quality early education has long lasting benefits for all children.
The FEEE for two year olds is not universal and can only be accessed by families meeting certain criteria.
The FEEE for three and four year olds is a universal free provision for every child from the term following their third birthday up until they reach compulsory school age.
Frequently asked Questions
Q. Is my two year old eligible for a free nursery place?
A. Two year olds can access a free nursery place if they meet one or more of the criteria set out below:
Their parent/carer meets eligibility criteria also used for free school meals as set out below:
Income-based Job Seekers’ Allowance
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
The Guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
Child Tax Credit (but not Working Tax Credit) and have an annual income not exceeding £16,190
Working Tax Credit during the four week period immediately after their employment finishes or after they start to work less than 16 hours per week
Their family receives Working Tax Credits and have annual gross earnings of no more than £16,190
They have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan
They are entitled to Disability Living Allowance
They are looked after by a local authority
They have left care through an adoption order, a special guardianship order or a child arrangements order which specifies with whom they live
Q. How can I apply for a free nursery place for my two year old?
A. You can apply for funding through a referrer; this could be an early years childcare provider, Children’s Centre outreach or support worker, health professional (such as a Health Visitor), social worker or specialist teacher. The referrer will complete the application form with you and will confirm they have seen evidence of your eligibility.
Q. When can I access a free nursery place for my two year old?
A. Eligible two year olds can access a FEEE funded place in the term after their second birthday, see below:
Child born between 1 April – 31 August 1 September following the 2nd birthday, 1 September – 31 December 1 January following their 2nd birthday, 1 January – 31 March 1 April following their 2nd birthday
Q. What information do I need to provide to get my free nursery place?
A. Early years childcare providers will ask to see your child’s birth certificate to confirm their eligibility for the FEEE.
They may also wish to check whether your child is eligible for the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) and may ask for a National Insurance number in order to do so. Children are eligible for the EYPP if they are three or four years old, receiving the FEEE and their parents meet the criteria used for free school meals. Children are also eligible if they:
• have been looked after by the local authority for at least one day
• have been adopted from care
• have left care through special guardianship
• are subject to a child arrangement order.
If you are applying for the two year old FEEE and are not eligible under Free School Meal criteria you will need to provide other evidence of your eligibility, e.g. a photocopy of TC602a form for the working tax credit eligibility.
To find out more about the Free Early Education Entitlement for two year olds:
visit an early years childcare provider, you can find your nearest at http://www.essex.gov.uk/Education-Schools/Early-Years-Childcare/Pages/Early-years-and-childcare.aspx
visit a children’s centre, you can find your nearest at http://childrenscentresfinder.direct.gov.uk/childrenscentresfinder/
speak to your Health Visitor or allocated Social Worker
contact the Family Information Service by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 0800 055 6874
Q. When does my child qualify for 3 and 4 year free entitlement funding?
A. The term after their 3rd birthday, see below:
Child born between 1 April – 31 August 1 September following the 3rd birthday, 1 September – 31 December 1 January following their 3rd birthday, 1 January – 31 March 1 April following their 3rd birthday
The dates have been fixed by DfE in line with the current Statutory Guidance
Q. How do I apply for my 3 year olds free place?
A. If your child is already attending an early years childcare provider they will claim the FEEE on your behalf and will ask you to sign a parent/carer agreement form to confirm this. If your child is not registered with an early years childcare provider yet you will need to find a provider that offers FEEE places and register your child with them.
You can search for a provider at http://www.essex.gov.uk/Education-Schools/Early-Years-Childcare/Pages/Early-years-and-childcare.aspx
Or contact the Family Information Service by email at email@example.com or by telephone on 0800 055 6874
Flexibility – what does flexibility mean?
Children are able to take up their full FEEE at times that best support their learning and at times which fit with the needs of the parents.
Providers delivering the FEEE flexibly must ensure that the entitlement is offered to you in a way which meets your needs and gives you real choices about how you access a free place.
Frequently asked Questions
Q. How do I know I am getting what I am entitled to?
A. Your provider must complete a Parent/Carer Agreement with you as it sets out how you are accessing the FEEE. It is really important that you are aware of all the details relating to your child’s place before you sign the form. Ensure you are aware of any additional costs and what these are for. Providers must make sure you are able to access your entitlement without any additional cost unless these have been agreed prior to your child taking up the place. Please take note of the following:
Completing and signing the form confirms the contractual agreement between you and the provider for the duration of the term
The Parent/Carer Agreement Form records the number hours/weeks of FEEE for the duration of the term
The Parent/Carer Agreement Form informs you that if you decide to move your child after headcount, the point in the term when the provider provides data on funded children to ECC, you may be liable to pay full fees at the new provider
For the FEEE for three and four year olds the Parent/Carer Agreement Form records whether you are accessing the funding in one or two provisions
The Parent/Carer Agreement Form informs you of how hours can be taken
The Parent/Carer Agreement Form informs you that additional charges can be made
The Parent/Carer Agreement Form informs you about the restrictions of increasing hours in a term
The Parent/Carer Agreement Form informs you about what happens if your child starts school
Q. Can lunch or meal times be included in the free entitlement and will this have to be paid for?
A. Free Entitlement hours can cover a lunch time period where it is structured to support the children’s overall learning & developmental process
When the Free Entitlement hours do include a lunch time period there may be a charge for lunch or snacks, any charge for the lunch must be agreed with you in advance. If you don’t want to pay this charge the provider must give you the choice to bring a packed lunch or allow you to take your child out of the setting over the lunch period
Q. The provider has asked me to pay a top up fee – is this allowed?
A. Providers cannot charge a ‘top up’ fee (the difference between what they would normally charge and the amount they receive from ECC) for any free entitlement hours.
Providers can only charge for hours and services that are not part of the free entitlement. Any costs that you may be liable for should be made absolutely clear on the parent/carer agreement form which should show that;
you have received your child’s full 15 hour funded place completely free, there should be no monetary value attached to the free 15 hours
additional hours and services can be charged for, e.g. meals or hours in addition to the funded free hours. The provider must notify you of these before you take up the place as you will be agreeing to them by signing the parent agreement form
Please also be aware that;
the rates that a provider charges for additional hours outside of a child’s FEEE place are a private matter between the provider and the child’s parent/carer, local authorities cannot intervene in providers’ private business outside of a child’s FEEE place
if your child is only accessing the 15 hours of FEEE you will not need an invoice. However, the provider must tell you that an application for funding has been made on your behalf and ensure you complete a Parent/Carer Agreement Form
charges for any additional hours and/or services must be clearly recorded separately on an invoice.
Q. How do I know if I am being charged the right amount?
A. You should be provided with an invoice which must be clear and transparent so you can clearly understand what has been charged for.
The invoice a provider sends to you should include the following:
The relevant date
The provision details
Details of you/your child
The period of time the invoice is for i.e. one week, two weeks, a month
It should itemise what is free of charge i.e. FEEE funded hours, and what are chargeable items
FEEE hours cannot be represented as a monetary value or as a discounted item on the invoice
Chargeable hours that have been taken outside FEEE hours should be clearly itemised on the invoice
Any snacks, meals and additional activities should also be clearly itemised on the invoice
The provider should indicate when you should pay their invoice
Q. Do I have to pay anything if I just want my free entitlement?
A. No, The entitlement is a free, part time place for each eligible two, three and four year old child. If you only want to access your FEEE funded hours you should not be expected to pay any additional charges e.g. snacks or extra-curricular activities unless you have agreed to these before taking up your place.
Early years providers must not;
attach any conditions to the funded place which oblige you to purchase additional hours or pay lunchtime charges in order to secure free early education
charge for any goods or services where such payment is conditional to access the free place for example a registration fee or charges for a uniform
Q. How many days a week can I take my free entitlement over?
A. The FEEE can be taken up in a number of ways. ECC has a duty to ensure that, as a minimum, you can access the FEEE in the following patterns:
either three hours a day over five days of the week
or five hours a day over three days of the week
The free early education place does not offer a guarantee of a place to you at any one provider or a particular pattern of provision. Most providers choose to deliver the FEEE places in line with school term times, but there is no requirement for them to do this.
Q. Can I still choose to take my Free Entitlement funding for fewer than 38 weeks?
A. You can take the funding for fewer than 38 weeks at a provider of your choice, the minimum they should offer is 33 weeks.
If your provider is receiving funding to deliver a reduced entitlement they cannot charge you for additional hours of provision if your child is accessing 15 hours or under per week.
If you choose to use a provider who offers fewer than 38 weeks it is not then possible to make up the remaining weeks up at another provision. If you need the full 38 weeks it is best to choose a provider that can accommodate this.
Q. Am I able to take up my Free Entitlement over more than 38 weeks?
A. Yes you can, but the maximum number of hours per term you can claim for does not change nor does the amount of funding you are entitled to.
If your provider does offer funding over 50 weeks of the year please be aware that the 15 hours maximum hours per week will be worked out pro rata and therefore the hours will be reduced to approximately 11 hours per week.
Q. The DfE guidelines say that I can claim from 2 hours up to a maximum of 10 hours in a day – is this right?
A. These are guidelines set by central Government however ECC have made the decision that in Essex parents can claim between 2.5 and 10 hours in any one day.
It is also possible for a parent to take their 15 hours over a minimum of two days and maximum of five days, and be claimed between 7am and 7pm.
Q. Is it okay to just ask for the hours I want to claim for or do I have to take up the full entitlement?
A. Yes, you can just ask for the hours you want, you do not have to take the full 15 hours if you do not want to.
When asking for your hours at the start of each term be clear with the provider how many hours you can take and when. This should be confirmed on your parent/carer agreement form.
NB. The provider will only be funded by ECC for the amount of hours that your child actually attends the setting.
Q. What if I want to split my Childcare entitlement between two Essex early years childcare providers – can I do this and how does the number of hours claimed get checked?
A. Yes, if you are accessing the FEEE for three and four year olds you can split your 15 hours between two providers if it meets your needs. However, you need to be aware that some settings, particularly schools, will have a sole provider policy and will not allow split funding.
If you are splitting the funding you will declare this on the Parent Agreement form you sign with each of your chosen providers at the start of each term detailing the amount of hours you will take at each provision.
Both provisions will then submit the details of your claim for your child at each provision to Essex County Council who then cross check details of each child to prevent any over claims.
If your child is accessing the FEEE for two year olds, they can only attend one provider.
Q. Can you combine school places and nursery places?
A. You can split your free entitlement between a PVI provision and a maintained school nursery/nursery class if you wish. However you should bear in mind that most schools will have a single provider policy and this may not be possible.
The ECC FEEE contract gives providers the option to operate a ‘sole provision policy’ if this is their policy they must inform you at the time you complete the Parent/Carer Agreement Form.
You cannot split the funding between a PVI and a reception class. When a child enters reception class at any school they will no longer be entitled to the FEEE.
If your child is due to start in a reception class at a state school (not a private or independent school) you will no longer be eligible to claim Free Entitlement funding. However, some schools stagger their reception class intake over the opening four weeks of the term. If your child continues to attend an early years childcare provision during this period, your provider may claim for Free Entitlement hours for your child, for up to a maximum of four weeks.
Q. Can we insist that the provider is open for longer hours?
A. No. This is still left up to individual settings, but equally they must be mindful of parent demand (sufficiency) as another provider may fulfil the need for any gaps in the market.
NB. Free entitlement hours can be accessed between 7am -7pm
Q. I now want to increase my hours, even though the term has started is this possible?
A. No, at the start of each term we ask parent/carers to sign a declaration form with the provider for them to be able to claim funding on your behalf. Increasing hours after the headcount day means that provider cannot claim for the extra hours requested by the parent. ECC will not pay the provider for these extra hours. In this instance the provider can ask the parent to pay for the additional hours until the end of the current term (this should be included in the provider/parent contract).
Outcome: all children are able to take up their entitlement to funded early education in a high quality setting. Evidence shows that higher quality provision has greater developmental benefits for children, particularly for the most disadvantaged children. The evidence also shows that high quality early education at age two brings benefits to children’s development. This guidance reflects the Government’s intention that, as far as possible, early education for two-year-olds is delivered by providers who have achieved an overall rating of ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ in their most recent Ofsted inspection report.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How do I know my child is getting the best care?
A. ECC must ensure that all early years providers who deliver the FEEE must:
deliver the full Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and either be registered with Ofsted as an early years provider, or are a school taking children aged three and over and therefore exempt from registration with Ofsted as early years providers
submit to an inspection by Ofsted
maintain records about children receiving the FEEE and make that information available to the local authority, and Ofsted on request
Q. Can I get my free entitlement at any provider I choose?
A. ECC will only fund providers who are registered with Ofsted and hold a FEEE contract, and will:
base their decision whether to fund a provider to deliver early education places solely on their most recent Ofsted
fund places for two, three and four year old children attending any provider rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted
fund places for three and four year old children attending any provider rated ‘Requires Improvement’
only fund two year old places in ‘Requires Improvement’ providers where there is not sufficient, accessible ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ provision
secure alternative provision and withdraw funding , as soon as is practicable, for children who are already receiving their funded entitlement at a provider when it is rated ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted
fund new providers registered with Ofsted until their first full Ofsted inspection judgement is published.
Funding FEEE places
Outcome: fair and transparent funding which supports a diverse range of providers to deliver early education places and encourages existing providers to expand and new providers to enter the childcare market. This diversity enables parents to choose a provider that best meets the needs of their child and family.
Eligible children are entitled to up to 50 weeks of FEEE over the year. The entitlement is divided into three terms ranging from eleven to fifteen weeks which mirror the school terms. ECC will fund a provider to offer any number of weeks between a minimum of 33 and to a maximum of 50 (reducing hours pro rata).
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How does the provider claim the funding from ECC?
A. The provider enters your child’s details on an online form at set times each term, the table below sets out the term dates when funding can be claimed. Term Inclusive term dates Duration of FEEE Equivalent in hours Summer 2015 13/04/2015 to 22/07/2015 13 weeks 13 weeks x 15 hours = 195 hours Autumn 2015 03/09/2015 to 18/12/2015 14 weeks 14 weeks x 15 hours = 210 hours Spring 2016 04/01/2016 to 24/03/2016 11 weeks 11 weeks x 15 hours = 165 hours
The provider can claim up to 570 hours of FEEE throughout the year. If providers are stretching the entitlement over longer than 38 weeks they still claim the full 570 hours within the dates above.
FEEE funding is paid to the provider if the following conditions are met:
your child is included in the headcount and registered at the provision on the day of the headcount
or if your child is included in the headcount but ill or otherwise absent during that week, and genuinely expected to take their place during that term
if your child joins after headcount date a late claim can be submitted providing your child has NOT claimed FEEE at any other provision within Essex for that term
Q. How much does the provider get paid?
A. All providers offering the FEEE for two year olds are paid a flat rate of £5 per hour per child for those two year olds in place.
Providers of the FEEE for three and four year olds are paid using a Single Funding Formula (SFF) which takes into account the variable cost of delivery for different types of setting. The hourly rates for different provider types are set out below
Pre-Schools – £3.82 per hour
Day Nurseries – £4.01 per hour
Independent Schools – £4.01 per hour
Childminders – £4.61 per hour
Maintained Schools with Designated Nursery Classes – £4.27 per hour
Maintained Nursery Schools – £6.19 per hour
Providers may also receive a social deprivation supplement of an additional 10p, 20p or 30p per hour for qualifying children based on their home postcode.
They may also receive the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) for eligible three and four year old children attending their setting. The EYPP is calculated at an additional 53 pence per hour for every hour of FEEE.
Q. My child has special needs am I entitled to any extra funding?
A. It would be down to the Childcare provider to make a claim, such as an inclusion grant to meet any Childcare requirements for your child. Supporting evidence for any such claim would need to be substantiated by a Childcare professional such as a Special Educational Needs advisor. The funding would go to the provider to be able to offer any additional service to your child.
Q. Is it okay to take holiday during the term, and if so will my Childcare provider be penalised when my child is not attending?
A. Yes, this it is okay. The childcare provider would not have funding withheld if a child is absent for a short period due to holiday or sickness
Q. Are Schools allowed to say you have to come to our nursery if you want a place at the school?
A. No, they are not allowed to say this, but equally we are aware this could be happening. If you are told this, we would appreciate this being brought to our attention so we can take action.
Q. I have recently moved to Essex from another Local Authority – am I able to claim for Free Entitlement funding even though the term has started?
A. We would allow a childcare provider to claim for any child not already enrolled in Essex. They would be able to make a ‘late claim’ for the entitlement remaining for that term.
Q. What if I want to move my child from one Essex childcare provider to another, is this possible and how does this get funded?
A. The Free Entitlement contract that we supply to providers requests that they transfer funding if a child moves to a different provider. However, ECC are unable to insist on this therefore you may be liable to for the fees for the rest of the term at the new provider.
Q. What do I do if my provider closes unexpectedly during the term?
A. If a provision has to close during a term you will need to seek an alternative provision, please contact the Family Information Service who will assist you with this. Once you have secured and alternative provider, they will submit a late claim for your child’s FEEE for the remainder of the term.