Specialist schools started life in the early 1990s as city technology colleges.
The idea of Sir Cyril Taylor, they won the support of the then education secretary Kenneth Baker. CTCs were intended to promote excellence in science and technology. The first 15 were set up with the aid of pound;35 million in sponsorship from business and industry.
Earlier this year the total number of specialist schools - still under the umbrella of the Technology Colleges Trust - reached 400. Labour has halved the amount each school needs to raise in private sponsorship which should help it reach its target of 800 specialist schools by 2003.
Specialisation no longer has to be in technology. Schools have chosen to concentrate on sport and music and one member of the trust is the BRIT performing arts school in Croydon.