The chair of Ofsted has courted controversy by saying children should start school at the age of two.
Baroness Sally Morgan said the 'big, bold' brave move' was needed stop disadvantaged children falling behind their peers.
She said action needed to be taken to tackle the under-achievement of under-fives in the country's poorest areas, where poverty-stricken five-year-olds were found to be 19 months behind their affluent peers.
At the moment, most children start school in the September after their fourth birthday, and legally, have to be in full-time education by the term following their fifth birthday.
Speaking at an education seminar in London, Baroness Morgan said that school intake could be 'two to 18 as far as I'm concerned'.
"If you could get them coming into school at a different level then it would save time and be transformative," she said, adding that earlier admissions would mean 'early intervention work' that could be 'really focused on the poorest children'.
"You're much more likely to have them starting primary school, ready, without the big gap and ready to learn," she said. "But at the moment, a lot of the children from really disadvantaged backgrounds are not ready to learn so the school almost has to provide nurturing before it can start to educate."
Her views come as teachers report that children are starting school still wearing nappies and unable to the lavatory by themselves.
"What a dire start to their educational life. Those children had low level social skills, especially reading and communication. They're not ready to learn at school," she said.
"Weak parenting, low educational attainment of parents, poor diet, poor housing and so on – the gap between affluent and disadvantaged is greatest in that group."
"I think there needs to be a big, bold, brave move on the under-fives agenda to target funding heavily on the children who will benefit most and increasingly, I think, to look to strong providers to go further down the system," she said.
Critics of Baroness Morgan's views said that children are already expected to do 'too much, too soon'.
Dr Richard House from the Save Childhood Movement said Baroness Morgan's calls were 'completely misguided'.
"If this proposal happens, I think it could be a catastrophe for young children," he said. "What will happen is that early childhood is going to become 'schoolified'.
"That early childhood time when children are young – at least up to the age of five, and I would say six – is a period of their development and learning which has its own intrinsic value."
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