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Extension to free entitlement funding

There are two new developments in the delivery of the free entitlement that providers and parents need to be aware of.

The government announced in June 2007 that the arrangements for funding early years provision were to be reviewed and each local authority had to develop a new single formula for funding all providers.
In Wiltshire this came into effect in April 2010.

The new funding arrangements were to accommodate the second of these developments which was parents' entitlement of the new extended flexible offer of 15 hours of free nursery education over a minimum of 38 weeks per year; a total maximum entitlement of 570 hours each year.

In 2007 Wiltshire brought together a representative group known as the Early Years reference group whose role is to advise the council on the development and implementation of policies relating to the provision of nursery education and childcare.


The new Extended Offer, available to all parents since September 2010, is for –

  • up to 15 hours a week over 38 weeks a year, up to a maximum of 570 hours each year. Parents may reduce the hours taken per week by extending their claim over more weeks
  • to be delivered flexibly by providers, ideally at any time of day that a provider is open
  • available for 2.5 - 10 hours in any one day
  • available to all three and four year olds from September 2010 whose parents wish to access the extended offer, subject to providers being able and willing to accommodate parental needs.

If you would like to obtain more information about the extended flexible offer from official DfE publications, these can be found on the Government’s website


The government stated in 2007 that the development of a single formula for paying free entitlement to providers must:

  • Support effective and efficient distribution of resources at a local level
  • Facilitate greater flexibility of provision so that parents have greater choice in how they use their free entitlement
  • Preserve diversity and choice in the market;
  • Incentivise improvements in the quality of provision.

Single Funding Formula guidance has been developed nationally to develop a scheme to pay all providers on an equitable basis.

In Wiltshire we needed to develop a single funding formula because:

  • We had a mixed market and there were inconsistencies in how maintained and Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) settings were funded
  • Place-led funding in maintained settings meant there was little incentive for these providers to encourage take-up of the full entitlement
  • The PVI sector was often funded on a flat rate and the local authority could not guarantee getting value for money or funding the entitlement properly
  • Extensive instability in PVI budgets could often undermine quality and sustainability

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Last updated: 20 February 2018 | Last reviewed: 20 February 2018