Ministers want parents, teachers and community groups to run schools in education action zones and will pay to help them compete with local authorities.
The Government wants zones which are radically different from the current 25 and plans are now being drafted by official advisers.
The intention is to take the key experiment further and create at least some zones that can be run independently of local education authorities.
As part of the attempt to encourage different groups into the water, ministers plan to provide Pounds 20,000 to each of the 15 applicants considered to have the best bids.
The move appears to mark a partial victory for the Prime Minister's camp in the battle over whether zones are about developing a New Labour "Third Way" or for tackling problems in disadvantaged areas.
Disputes within government over the future of the zones have delayed the establishment of another 15 until January 2000.
Estelle Morris, the school standards minister, is expected to announce later this month that she will favour bids for zones that contain proposals for innovative structures and new partners.
Sir Cyril Taylor, architect of the city technology college experiment, has just been recruited as special zone adviser to the Education Secretary.
Sir Cyril's appointment arises out of concern that the first 25 zones are not offering anything dramatically different and have not drawn in significant private-sector investment.
Although only 15 CTCs ever opened, ministers have been struck by the results being achieved in a number of them.
The new zones will not automatically qualify for the Pounds 750,000 each year that is going to the 25 already selected. Only zones where industrial sponsors are putting in Pounds 250,000 will get this amount. The others will get Pounds 500,000.
The details are to be announced at the end of next month.