Frequently asked questions for free early education

Applying for free early education

How do I find an early education provider?

  • You can contact your chosen provider direct to discuss availability of places, your child’s start date and attendance pattern.
  • You can get information and advice on local childcare provision through the families information service either by:
    • contacting the families information service helpline at or(01254) 667877; or
    • calling in to your local children’s centre and asking to speak to a member of staff. Please note not all childcare providers deliver the two year old offer. You will need to check this when you contact them.

Do I have the right to free early education with a particular provider?

No. You only have the right to free early education for your child. However, we do make every effort to help you find the best place for your child.

Can I apply to more than one provider?

You may be able to claim your 570 hours with more than one provider, contact your preferred provider or the families information service at  or (01254) 667877.

How will I find out if my child has been offered a free early education place?

In most instances you should be contacted by the provider at least one term before your child’s free early education is due to start.

What happens if my chosen provider does not have a place for my child?

Your chosen provider may advise you that there are no suitable places available. If this is the case you should approach another provider. The families information service can provide details of alternative childcare providers.

How will I know if the provider is right for my child and my family?

It is a good idea to look around more than one early years provider as each one may offer different services that suit you and your child. You may want to take your child with you when you visit to see how staff interact with him or her. Try to visit when children are there so you can see if they are happy, busy and enjoying the activities.

Are providers of free early education inspected?

All providers that offer free early education are registered with and inspected by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) or the Department for Education.  You can ask the provider for a copy of their registration certificate and their inspection report, or you can download these from

What will happen if my child does not attend regularly?

When a place is offered you will be expected to make sure your child attends regularly and on time. If your child does not attend regularly and there are unreported absences, you may lose your place.

Will I be expected to pay anything towards my child’s free early education?

You do not have to pay anything towards free early education, but you may be asked to pay for additional activities such as outings or meals which are optional.  The provider should tell you about any charges before your child starts there.

30 hours free early education for 3 and 4 year olds from September 2017

From September 2017 working parents who meet the criteria will be entitled to 30 hours of free childcare. More information can be found at

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How can I tell if it is the best provider for my child?

Some signs to look for:

  • The children appear confident and settled. They are involved in what they are doing and enjoying themselves.
  • The staff have a caring and friendly relationship with the children, they are involved in their play and there are no raised voices.
  • The setting is safe, well lit and clean.
  • That there is a broad range and generous supply of toys and equipment easily available for children to choose from.
  • There is enough space for children to play.
  • There is a quiet area where children can rest and sleep if they need to.
  • There are comfortable areas where children can relax.
  • There are toys, books and displays that represent and promote different cultures and lifestyles in a positive, non-stereotypical way.
  • There are clean, appropriately sized toilets and hand basins that allow for independence and privacy.
  • There is a secure, safe and stimulating outdoor play area.
  • The provider is able to offer activities and development opportunities that support individual children’s needs in line with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework. The Early Years Foundation Stage sets out the learning and development stages for the children as they grow from birth to five years. For those working in the Early Years – whether in a nursery, pre-school, childminder or reception class in school – the EYFS outlines what they need to do to support your child. A copy of the EYFS can be downloaded at

How long have staff been working in the setting?

Children need to develop stable relationships with the adults caring for them. That is more likely to happen with providers where there is a low turnover of staff.

What qualifications/training are staff required to have?

Guidance on the required qualifications for staff is detailed in the Early Years Foundation Stage document which can be downloaded at

Ofsted registered providers are required, as part of their registration and inspection process to ensure children are safeguarded by proving staff employed to work with children are suitable to do so.

Do the staff enjoy being with children and why?

It is important that the adults working with children enjoy their work. Their job is to support parents in providing young children with a variety of stimulating and exciting opportunities to learn and develop to the best of their abilities.

Can I look around the building to see the rooms and outside play area?

Staff should offer to show you around the setting although this may need to be pre-arranged with the provider concerned.

What will my child do during their time at nursery?

Children need to have access to interesting activities, both quiet and active. Activities should be developmentally appropriate and give children opportunities to extend their learning.

Where will my child rest/sleep?

Some young children may still need to rest during their time at nursery. Rest areas should be quiet and have suitable furnishings.

What kind of food and drink will children have?

Ask if children have fresh fruit and vegetables, and are able to drink water when they need to or want to. Ask if the provider is able to cater for children with special or specific dietary needs. All food and snacks should contribute to a healthy diet. You may also want to request a sample menu.

How do you deal with challenging behaviour?

Challenging behaviour needs to be dealt with sensitively. Providers should have a written policy on promoting children’s welfare and safety and should aim to understand and help children manage their behaviour appropriately.

Will my child be with a regular group of children? How old are they?

Friendships are very important to children. Being part of a regular group can help. However children can also benefit from being with others older or younger than themselves. The providers should do all they can to support special friendships and encourage children to mix with others.

How will you make sure I know how my child is getting on?

You should expect to be given regular updates on your child’s progress and achievements. Ask your provider how they will do this.

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The cost of childcare

Information and advice on help towards the cost of childcare

If you are buying additional childcare services you may be eligible to claim the childcare element of the working tax credit. Contact the HMRC tax credits helpline on 0345 300 3900 for more information.

Log onto National Association of Family Information Services (NAFIS) at for more information about the childcare available to you, any free childcare you may be entitled to, and help with the costs of childcare.

Tax-Free Childcare will be available to all eligible parents by the end of 2017 to help with the cost of childcare, enabling more parents to go out to work, if they want to, to provide greater security for their families.

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Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND)

My child has special educational needs and/or a disability. What services are available to support my child to access their free early education?

Some children have special educational needs in relation to learning, physical disabilities or medical needs, which mean they may need additional support. For most children their provider will meet their needs as most early years providers make reasonable adjustments for children with additional needs.

Early years providers are also able to access central support services who can provide advice and assistance, for example, the educational psychology team or SEND Support Service.

A small number of children may require more specialist support. If your child has special educational needs and/or disabilities and requires additional support to enable them to access their early learning please let your preferred provider know when you apply for a free early education place. You can also contact SENDIASS (Special Educational Needs & Disability Information Advice Support Service) for confidential information, advice and support on (01254) 583957.

The service offers impartial information, guidance and support to parents of children who have special educational needs and/or disabilities. The service aims to provide pupils, young adults, parents and carers, schools and other professionals with the opportunity of working together to meet the special educational needs and/or disabilities of the individual pupil.

Blackburn with Darwen‘s Local Offer is an online resource that details services, support and guidance available to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) aged 0 – 25 and their families. Find out more information.

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Disability Links

Disability Links provides information about local services that are available to families of children from birth to 25 years with additional needs and/or disabilities, who live in Blackburn with Darwen. Contact the disability links Co-ordinator on (01254) 666711 for more information.

For further assistance and advice contact the local authority on (01254) 666752. You can ask to speak to the SEND Support Service or the special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) team or the educational psychology team.

Useful contacts and telephone numbers at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council:

  • Families information service (01254) 667877
  • Pupil support and admissions team:(primary/secondary schools) (01254) 666605
  • SEND Support Service (01254) 666666
  • Educational psychology team (01254) 666887
  • Special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) (01254) 666752
  • Special educational needs information advice and support service (SENDIASS) (01254) 583957
  • Disability Links (01254) 666940

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