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No fewer than 616 of the 684 specialist schools designated so far are comprehensives, schools minister Stephen Timms said this week.

Of the remaining 68, 30 are grammar schools, 29 are secondary moderns and nine are special schools.

The next round of decisions on which schools will receive specialist status is expected to be made in January 2002, Mr Timms said in response to questions from Labour MP and former chair of the education select committee, Barry Sheerman.

Answering a further question from Labour MP Kevin McNamara, Mr Timms promised to keep under review the amount a school has to raise in sponsorship to gain specialist status.

In 1999, the Government reduced the required sponsorship from pound;100,000 to pound;50,000 after admitting that schools faced difficulties in raising funds.

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