More than 800 headteachers have expressed an interest in winning elite "teaching school" status for their primaries or secondaries, it has been revealed.
Competition to become part of the teaching school network - and get a share of the pound;72 million on offer - is likely to be fierce.
A total of 810 heads, including 12 private school leaders, would like to become a teaching school - a cornerstone of the coalition Government's policy to shake up teacher training and make it more classroom-based.
The successful 500 applicants will have to show an outstanding Ofsted rating, "high-level" pupil performance and an outstanding school leader (see box).
Department for Education officials want to establish all 500 teaching schools by 2015, and plan to open the first one in September.
The scheme is designed to replicate the teaching school status given to about 30 primaries and secondaries in London, Manchester and the Black Country as part of the City Challenge project.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "We are very much in favour of the effect this will have on headteacher succession planning, and requiring schools to collaborate with each other."
But he added: "We remain concerned about the criteria for having an outstanding Ofsted judgment. We understand schools involved need to be highly successful, but basing it on an inspection will exclude a number of very good schools."
These concerns were echoed by Tracy Ruddle, head of Corngreaves Primary in the West Midlands, also a teaching school contender. "We need to know more information about the funding," she said. "All my staff have teaching commitments, so we will need more staffing resources to develop training programmes."
Judith Fenn of the Independent Schools Council said private school heads were enthusiastic about working in partnership with mainstream colleagues. "Our members are very keen to become involved," she said.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said: "The best education systems around the world recruit the highest calibre of graduates, and train and develop them rigorously.
"In the NHS, teaching hospitals have become centres of excellence in their local areas by training current and future generations of doctors and nurses while also providing excellent medical care. We want teachers to have the same opportunities."
Schools can formally apply for teaching school status from April.
THE CRITERIA: COULD IT BE YOU?
1. A clear track-record of long-standing collaborative relationships with a significant number of partner schools.
2. Rated outstanding by Ofsted.
3. Consistently high levels of pupil performance or continued improvement over the past three years; results must exceed floor standards.
4. Outstanding senior and middle leaders.
5. Evidence of improvement supported by self-evaluation, coaching, mentoring, quality assurance and engagement in practitioner-led research, with strong links to higher education.
6. Outstanding heads who have led a school for at least three years and expect to remain in their job for the next two years.
7. Heads who are already accountable for one or more schools or academies which meet the teaching school criteria.
8. Applications will be welcomed from clusters of smaller schools.
- Original headline: Heads vie for share of `teaching school' funds