Delivering the free entitlement to education for three- and four-year-olds

The free entitlement to education is the Department’s primary financial intervention in children’s early education. All three- and four-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours per week of free education, starting the term after a child’s third birthday. The scope of the entitlement has evolved since it was introduced in 1998 for all four-year-olds.

In determining the expected benefits from changing and expanding the entitlement, the Department has set out its own analysis of the likely educational and monetised benefits, drawing on the findings of longitudinal research. It identified that high-quality early education can benefit children’s social, physical and mental development, positively influencing outcomes for children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Comptroller and Auditor General
National Audit Office