All secondaries except those in special measures, with serious weaknesses, and city academies may apply. They must raise pound;50,000 in sponsorship. Celebrity sponsors and supporters include Mick Hucknall, Robbie Williams, Pierce Brosnan,and Colin Firth. Schools with budget deficits will be rejected.
Schools need not have a particular strength in their specialist subject, but must show that developing a focus in it and improving results is "realistic and achievable". Schools with "modest" exam performance must show they are improving or that becoming a specialist will achieve a "step change" in marks. Schools with declining results are unlikely to be accepted.
Successful schools get pound;100,000 for capital projects; pound;123 per pupil per year for four years. They must sharing expertise with other schools and the community.
Some 27 schools have lost their specialist status. Reasons include not involving the community, failing to follow their action plan and nosediving exam results.