Four groups of schools are finalising plans to move towards greater collaboration and, subject to ministers' approval, will begin working together next term.
The schools in Birmingham, Bradford, Essex and Gateshead all have the agreement of their local education authorities.
Schools which join federations will have common policies on inclusion, behaviour and staff development as well as sharing premises and equipment.
Two of the federations are also planning joint steering groups consisting of governors from the schools taking part.
The power for schools to join together under a single governing body, contained in the Education Act 2002, does not come into force until September.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills told The TES that schools could be allowed to share a single governing body before then. But this was unlikely to happen immediately as it would require the Education Secretary to use powers to exempt schools from legislation.
Schools which federate will be given a share of Standards Fund grants based on the department's assessment of how much extra money they will need.
In total, the DfES has received more than 40 expressions of interest in federations from local education authorities, individual schools and possible federations, ranging from serious proposals to enquiries about the nature of the scheme.
The spokesperson said that a number of LEAs and all types of school had shown an interest including faith schools, specialists, those in challenging circumstances and special schools.
Stephen Twigg, junior education minister, said this week that he would like federations to be set up to increase co-operation between special and mainstream schools.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, said a number of issues still needed to be worked out - including the relationship between the head of the federation and the heads of individual schools.