Nursery Education Funding (NEF)
All 3 and 4 year old children, as well as some 2 year old children, are entitled to 15 hours of funded early education and childcare per week, for 38 weeks of the year. 3 and 4 year old children of working parents are also entitled to an additional 15 hours per week (30 Hours Childcare). From April 2024, the entitlement for working families will be expanding to include children under the age of 3 years of age.
Registering to offer Nursery Education Funding (NEF)
Worcestershire directory of funded providers
All early years providers who wish to offer free places for two, three and four year old children within Worcestershire, must be registered with Worcestershire County Council to be included on the Worcestershire Directory of Funded Providers.
By registering, early years providers agree to abide by the national guidance document: Early Education and Childcare; Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities, June 2018 and the local guidance document ‘The Worcestershire Provider Agreement. For a copy of the current Provider Agreement email: NEF@worcschildrenfirst.org.uk
All providers wishing to offer Nursery Education Funding must deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage in line with all principles and requirements, as set out in the 'Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. Setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five', 2021, or have an official exemption.
Providers must be registered with one of the following organisations:
- early years Ofsted
- schools Ofsted and DfE
- Independent Schools Inspectorate
- a registered childminder agency
Providers who are judged by Ofsted as ‘Inadequate’ are unable to register to offer NEF in Worcestershire.
Providers who are judged by Ofsted as ‘Requires Improvement’ are unable to register to offer Two Year Old Funding in Worcestershire.
Register to offer nursery education funding within Worcestershire
Providers who wish to register to offer NEF within Worcestershire must email firstname.lastname@example.org for an NEF registration pack. All forms must be completed and returned before a provider can be included on the Worcestershire Directory of Funded Providers.
Providers can contact the NEF Team to discuss any aspect of the registration documentation.
Nursery Education Funding audits
NEF Audits are carried out to ensure that all settings who are funded to deliver NEF within Worcestershire are adhering to the Worcestershire Provider Agreement and are therefore allowing families to access their free entitlement.
The following criteria will be used to prioritise when an NEF audit is carried out:
- settings where the NEF team, schools finance team or early years team have concerns from visits, phone calls or repeated problems with funding claims and/or payments
- settings that have been highlighted by phone calls from parents and carers
- on closure of business, financial records with Worcestershire Children First will not be finalised and closed until the audit has been completed
- new settings within the first 3 terms of business
- at random, based on the capacity of the NEF Team.
NEF Audits are carried out to confirm:
- accuracy of funding claims
- accuracy of funding payments, including Inclusion funding
- adherence to the Worcestershire Provider Agreement
- parents are able to access their child’s free entitlement without having to pay any additional fees
Providers who have been selected for an NEF Audit will need to present the following information:
- copies of registers (daily attendance sheets) for the audited term
- copies of all Parent Declaration Forms for the audited term
- copies of all parental invoices/bills/statements for a period within the audited term
- evidence supporting the level of need for any funded child receiving an inclusion supplement
- details of the way in which providers offer the free entitlement, which should include
- a copy of the fee structure
- a copy of a registration form/contract
- any funding related information used by the provider for parents and carers
The Funded Offer
Providers can choose how they offer Nursery Education Funding at their setting, as long as they follow the national guidance:
- no session to be longer than 10 funded hours
- funded hours cannot be offered before 6:00am or after 8:00pm
- funded hours must be offered as a continuous session, without ‘artificial breaks’
- funded hours can be accessed across a maximum of two sites in any single day
Parents and carers must be given clear information about what is on offer at a setting. This must include what is available for ‘free’ as part of the funded hours along with the cost of additional hours and services which parents/carers can choose to access.
Parents and carers can be charged a deposit to secure their child’s funded place, however this must be refunded by the end of the first term of attendance.
Providers can choose to limit the number of completely free places that are available at the setting. The criteria for allocating these places must be clearly set out in their admissions policy. The admissions policy should be available to all parents and carers.
The annual number of funded hours available for a child are based on 38 weeks of the year (term-time), however providers can choose to offer the hours ‘stretched’ over more than 38 weeks.
|Number of Funded Hours child is entitled to per week
|Number of Funded Hours child can access per year
The number of hours available to a child will depend on when they start accessing funded hours. The maximum annual allocation is based on attendance starting in September. A proportionate number of hours will be available for a child who starts attending or becomes eligible for funded hours after September.
NEF information for parents and carers in Worcestershire can be found here, Funded Childcare.
Criteria for funded hours
Two year old funding
Eligible two year old children can access their funded hours from the term following their 2nd birthday*. Upon application, all eligible families in Worcestershire are issued a Confirmation Certificate which they are asked to pass on to their child’s setting. The Certificate contains the child’s name and date of birth, their reference number (which should be included on a providers funding claim) and the date from which the funding can be claimed. Providers are responsible for confirming the child’s date of birth before submitting a funding claim.
Information about the criteria for two year old funding can be found here: Who is eligible for two year old funding?
Three and four year old funding Universal 15 hours
All three and four year old children are eligible for 15 universal funded hours from the term following their 3rd birthday*. Providers must confirm the child’s date of birth before submitting a funding claim.
*Eligible dates of birth
Children who turn two or three years of age between:
Funding term funded hours commence:
1 April and 31 August
Autumn Term – 1 September
1 September and 31 December
Spring Term – 1 January
1 January and 31 March
Summer Term – 1 April
Three and four year old funding Additional 15 hours (30 Hours Childcare)
Eligible three and four year old children can access their additional 15 hours from the term after their 30 Hours Childcare Code has been successfully applied for, as long as the Code remains valid. If families apply for the Code mid-term, the additional 15 hours will not be available until the start of the following term. The family must maintain the Code every 3 months to continue the child’s eligibility. When receiving a Code from a family, providers should check the Code’s validity using the Eligibility Checker on the Online Provider Portal.
Information about the criteria for 30 Hours funding and the application process can be found on the Childcare Choices website.
New offer for working families
From April 2024, working parents of 2 year old children will be eligible for up to 15 hours of funded childcare per week, from the term following their child’s 2nd birthday. From September 2024, this will be expanded to include children from the term after they turn 9 months of age. From September 2025, working parents of children aged between 9 months and 5 years of age, will be entitled to up to 30 hours of funded childcare per week, until the child starts school.
For more information about the upcoming expansion, please visit: Upcoming changes to childcare support | Childcare choices.
Termination and withdrawal of Nursery Education Funding
In line with the Termination and Withdrawal of Nursery Education Funding Policy (see below)
- providers who are judged by Ofsted as ‘Requires Improvement’ will be removed from the Worcestershire Directory of Funded Providers for Two Year Old Funding
- providers who are judged by Ofsted as ‘Inadequate’ will be removed from the Worcestershire Directory of Funded Providers
Providers may also be removed from the Worcestershire Directory of Funded Providers if they:
- fail to supply adequate information to complete an NEF Audit
- do not adhere to the ‘Early education and childcare: Statutory guidance for local authorities’, June 2018 and/or the current Worcestershire Provider Agreement
- fail to complete the annual Early Years Census
- fail to engage with the Early Years Personal Education Plan (EYPEP) process and therefore fail to meet the needs of children who are looked after
Removal of funding process
If a provider is judged to be ‘Requires Improvement, ‘Inadequate’ or ‘Not Met’ by Ofsted:
- an NEF Sufficiency Assessment will be completed by the NEF Team. Based on the results, a recommendation will be shared with the Early Years Sufficiency and Funding Group for approval
- Notice of the decision will be given to the provider within four weeks of the Ofsted inspection judgement being published
- funding will cease from half-term or the end of term, depending upon the number of weeks remaining in the period, ensuring that at least 6 (calendar) weeks’ notice is given
- families of funded children attending the setting will be contacted by the NEF Team to notify them of the decision
Worcestershire Children First complies with Department for Education statutory guidance (Early education and childcare - Statutory guidance for local authorities - June 2018) and as such meets both the requirements and the recommendations of this guidance in order to ensure that as far as possible ‘all children are able to take up their free hours in a high quality setting’. (DfE 2018).
Worcestershire Children First therefore funds places where the provider meets the quality requirements and is willing to accept the local authority funding requirements.
Worcestershire Children First will withdraw a provider from the Directory of Funded Providers if they are not willing to accept the local authority funding requirements, or they do not meet the quality requirements and there are sufficient places elsewhere, which meet the needs of the children and families.
Providers who do not meet the local authority funding requirements
The Nursery Education Funding team carry out audits in line with the agreed audit strategy. If providers are not meeting the funding requirements they will receive support and guidance to enable them to do so. If they do not take part in an NEF audit, do not provide the information required, or if they remain unable or unwilling to meet the requirements set out within the Statutory Guidance and/or the Worcestershire Provider Agreement, they will be removed from the Directory of Funded Providers.
Providers found to be submitting fraudulent claims will be removed from the Directory of Funded Providers immediately and will be required to repay any funding evidenced to have been paid through a fraudulent submission.
Providers who fail to complete the Early Years Census will be unable to access funding from the following April.
Providers’ who are removed from the Directory of Funded Providers, as well as the parents/carers of the children accessing the funding at that provider, will receive notice of the intention to withdraw the provider from the Directory of Funded Providers.
Providers who do not meet the quality requirements (other than local authority maintained provision)
Worcestershire Children First will remove a provider from the Directory of Funded Providers for 2, 3 and 4 year old funding if their registration is cancelled or suspended.
Worcestershire Children First will consider removal from the Directory of Funded Providers for 2, 3 and 4 year old funding if:
- a provider receives a judgement of inadequate
- a provider receives a judgement of ‘not met’
- a provider does not actively promote fundamental British values or if they promote views or theories as fact, which are contrary to established scientific or historical evidence and explanations
- an agency has indicated to the local authority that a childminder is not of the appropriate quality.
Worcestershire Children First will also consider removal from the Directory of Funded Providers for 2 year old funding if:
- a provider receives a judgement of ‘requires improvement’
Sufficiency of places
Providers may remain in the Directory of Funded Providers if it can be evidenced that there are insufficient places elsewhere to meet the needs of the funded children using the provider.
The NEF Team will then contact providers within 2 miles of the provider’s registered address to determine whether these children can be accommodated elsewhere.
If the provider in question is open and offering Nursery Education Funding all year round, only other all year round providers will be considered. If the provider is operating on a term-time only basis or offering the funding on a term-time only basis, only providers with a term-time only funding offer will be considered.
The NEF Sufficiency Assessment will be shared with the Early Years Sufficiency and Funding Group, who will then make a recommendation regarding withdrawal of funding, to be approved by the Group Manager – Sufficiency & Place Planning.
The decision will be made and communicated to the provider and parents/carers of funded children within four weeks of the published judgement. Parents/Carers will be written to directly, to inform them of the decision. Access to funding will normally be withdrawn at the end of a term or at half term, giving parents/carers at least 6 (calendar) weeks’ notice.
Exemptions may be made for children with very complex needs (those in receipt of GR4 or Exceptional Inclusion Funding) or circumstances where it can be evidenced that a move to another provider would be detrimental to their health and wellbeing, for example a child who has recently suffered bereavement or a child whose particular needs cannot effectively be met elsewhere.
For children who are looked after by a local authority, the Corporate Parent should be notified of both the Ofsted judgement and the outcome of the NEF Sufficiency Assessment. If the provider is removed from the Directory of Funded Providers, the child’s social worker would be expected to provide information to support any request of an exemption.
When a provider’s access to funding is removed at the start of or during the summer term, an exemption will be allowed for children starting school in the following September as it may be unreasonable to expect them to adjust to a new provider for one term, followed by a new school shortly after, particularly in view of transition arrangements. Parents/carers will be able to make this choice independently.
If a provider is able to continue offering two year old funded places after a judgement of Requires Improvement, or two year old funding and/or 3 and 4 year old funding after a judgement of ‘Inadequate’ or ‘Not Met’, the provider must formally agree to work with their Improvement Advisor, as well as take part in an ‘Inclusion Supplement Audit (if appropriate), to improve the quality of their provision. The Improvement Advisor will track the progress of funded children at regular intervals until the setting is re-inspected, to ensure that funded children are receiving good quality early education.
Providers subsequently judged ‘met’, ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ would become eligible to access all funding upon publication of the inspection report.
If providers receive a subsequent judgement of ‘not-met’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’, they will be given notice of their removal from the appropriate Directory of Funded Providers and an NEF Sufficiency Assessment will not be completed.
Local authority maintained provision
Local Authority Maintained provision is under the control and is funded directly by the local authority. This includes all provision within a school’s designated age-range that is included within the school’s Pupil Admission Number (PAN). It does not include additional provision that is operated by the School Governing Body.
Worcestershire Children First and its’ commissioned partners will take appropriate action to improve the quality of provision at a local authority maintained school which has been judged by Ofsted to require significant improvement or has been placed in special measures.
For parent and carer queries regarding Nursery Education Funding, please contact your local Family Hub.