Your schooldays are the best days of your life, they say.

But surely the reality is that the best days and the truly formative years are those from birth to four, when the foundations are laid for the rest of your life.

That's when a love of learning is (or is not) established, before your official schooldays start.

That was the thinking behind the Childcare Strategy, launched by the Government with a flourish and £390 million in 1998.

Since then, we have learnt to live with jargon like early learning goals, a continuing topic in these columns and funded places for four-year-olds.

For the latter, read five subsidised half-day sessions a week in a nursery or playgroup that meets quality criteria. This means children learning through play, grasping their first major lesson, that learning is fun.

And there's no doubt that under-fives learn at an astonishing rate.

Now, thanks to the increasing amounts of money being invested into early education, more and more are being encouraged to broaden their horizons develop new skills, play with new friends, acquire the confidence they need to succeed at school and in life.

The reality is that children do not start school from the same baseline. The disparity in skills and experience can be enormous. Some are unable to dress themselves, others have never had a bedtime story read to them. For some, a trip to the swimming pool is a rare treat.

One of the aims of early education is to provide equal opportunities for all, bringing under-fives to the point where they are ready and eager for formal education.

And the good news is that, from April 1, all three-year-olds in East Sussex will be able to take up a subsidised early education place in the term of their fourth birthday.

That means some three-year-olds could be attending five subsidised morning or afternoon sessions at an authorised nursery or playgroup by this summer.

This will be especially welcome to working mothers, who will enjoy the benefits of reduced childcare costs, as many nurseries offering the funded places can provide top-up childcare at the usual rates.