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At what age can my child....

go to a Children's Centre?

From birth to 5 years, a Children's Centre is a place where parents, carers or families can attend and use play facilities, join in groups and receive support. 

They work in close partnership with other agencies to offer a range of services that reflect the local communities.

Find your local Children’s Centre and more about the services available

get free childcare?

Free childcare, up to 15 hours per week, is available for some 2 year olds and all 3 and 4 year olds.  An additional 15 hours a week, 30 in total, is available for working families with 3 and 4 year olds. More information on each eligibility criteria can be found within the links below 

start using childcare?

Day nurseries and Childminders can care for children from a few months old. Day nurseries will care for a child up to 5 years and childminders usually up to 12 years. Most preschools will take children between the age of 2 to 2½ up to the age for 5.

Find out more on the different types of childcare

start a school nursery class?

Children can take up a free, part-time place in a nursery class from the September after their third birthday. 

The application forms are available in January each year and you have until the beginning of May to submit your application directly to the school/s of your choice. (you may apply to more than one).  You will be notified at the end of May if your child has a place at your chosen school/s for September.

For more information and to download the latest brochure and application form, see Nursery admissions

start reception class?

Children can start attending school for a full day (also known as reception class) from the September after their fourth birthday

The admissions process in an online only application and opens in November each year.  You have until mid-January to submit your application and help in completing the online application is available through weekly drop in sessions during this period

For more information and to download the latest brochure and access the online application form, see Primary admissions

start breakfast, afterschool or holiday playschemes?

Most out of school and holiday provisions will take children from the age of 4 to 12 years (a child aged 4 must also be in full time reception class and not in a nursery class)

Search for out of school care childcare

travel free on London transport

Generally, the cheapest way for children to travel in London is by using a Zip Oyster photocard.

  • Children under 11 can travel free on buses and trams without needing a 5-10 Zip Oyster photocard unless they look older than 10, in which case it is advisable to apply for a 5-10 Zip Oyster photocard
  • 11-15 year olds can travel free on buses and trams and travel at half adult-rate on all other TfL services and most National Rail services in London with a Zip Oyster card
  • 16 and 17 year olds can travel at half adult-rate on all TfL services and most National Rail services in London with a Zip Oyster card

How to apply for a Zip Oyster photocard

be left home alone?

There is no set age for leaving children home alone. The law simply says that you shouldn’t leave a child alone if they’ll be at risk.

There’s such a wide variation in the rate that children mature that it would be almost impossible to come up with a “one size fits all” law. Instead, the choice is left to parents. They know their children best and can use their own judgement.

The NSPCC offers the following advice on leaving a child at home

  • Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
  • Children under the age of 12 are rarely mature enough to cope in an emergency and should not be left at home alone for a long period of time
  • Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight
  • Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at home alone
  • A child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with this, regardless of their age
  • If a child has additional needs, these should be considered when leaving them at home alone or with an older sibling
  • When leaving a younger child with an older sibling think about what may happen if they were to have a falling out - would they both be safe?

Read more from the NSPCC on how to decide if your child is ready to be left at home alone

get a job?

Part time

The youngest age a child can work part-time is 13, except children involved in areas like television, theatre and modelling.  Children working in these areas will need a performance licence


Children can only start full-time work once they’ve reached the minimum school leaving age when they can then work up to a maximum of 40 hours a week.

Read more on child employment

leave school?

A child/young person can leave school on the last Friday in June if they will be 16 by the end of the summer holidays.

They must then do one of the following until they are 18:

  • stay in full-time education, for example at a college
  • start an apprenticeship or traineeship
  • spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training

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