A private girls' school in Liverpool is on course to become the first to join the state sector as a new academy.
The Belvedere school in Liverpool, run by the Girls' Day School Trust and the Sutton Trust, will end selection, double in size and take in boys in a new sixth form under plans unveiled this week.
The 125-year-old school will be redeveloped into an academy at a cost of "three or four million pounds" under plans being discussed with the Department for Education and Skills.
Since 1999 The Belvedere, the UK's only "open access" private school, has accepted pupils on academic merit, regardless of parental ability to pay the pound;6,930-a-year fees.
The Sutton Trust contributes more than pound;2 million a year to subsidise fees at the Belvedere, allowing 70 per cent of its pupils to win subsidised places.
The new academy would admit all pupils on a fair banding basis, with 10 per cent selected by aptitude in its chosen specialism, modern languages.
It would continue to be managed by the GDST, a charity which runs 25 private schools in England and Wales.
Sue Bridgett, GDST spokeswoman, said: "The open access scheme has been so successful that we wondered how we might extend it and this goes a long way to broadening its impact."
Sir Peter Lampl, the education philanthropist and chairman of the Sutton Trust charity, said the trust was considering financing more academies.
But he said the Belvedere, which is due to open in 2007, should be used as blueprint for the remaining flagship schools. "This is a first in more than one sense," he said. "Not only will it be the first time that an independent school has entered the academies programme, it is the first time a low-cost academy has been developed at the cost of a few million rather than tens of millions."