Education Correspondent Shahid Naqvi looks at the history of Birmingham's bid to create seven city academies
Plans to create seven city academies in Birmingham were revealed just before last Christmas.
They form part of the city's bid for £307 million under the Government's Building Schools for the Future drive to refurbish or rebuild every secondary school in the country.
As such, the authority has been accused of allowing itself to be "blackmailed" by Ministers into joining the controversial academy programme in return for cash.
Birmingham's cabinet member for education Les Lawrence (Con Northfield) insisted funding for the academies is from a different pot within the Department for Education and Skills.
At any rate, the plans to close and reopen seven secondaries as "independent" academies has provoked huge debate. A flagship policy of Tony Blair, city academies represent a radical approach to addressing persistent failure, particularly among inner city schools, by offering something different.
Where local authorities and the schools have failed to turn round a struggling school, the Prime Minister believes a dose of the private sector might do the trick. The school is torn down - in theory taking its troubled past with it - and replaced by a new centre, typically costing £25 million.
About a tenth of the rebuild cost - £2 million - is supplied by an outside backer which can be an individual, charity, private company or other interested organisation.
In return, they manage the school and have influence over its curriculum and also control admissions and teacher contracts.
Critics claim city academies represent privatisation of state schools by the back door.
They say they allow bodies that have nothing to do with education to gain control over children and say it is only a matter of time before McDonald's is running our schools.
Concern has already been expressed over the number of evangelical Christian charities that have emerged as sponsors.
The Grace Academy, which is due to open in Solihull in September backed by millionaire Bob Edmiston, is a case in point. Birmingham, however, is keen to stress it is offering something different to the Government's city academy model.
For a start, the name Birmingham Academies aims to emphasise their uniqueness.
In an interview with The Birmingham Post last December, Coun Lawrence stressed they would be schools with "academy-like features".
A fundamental departure from the Government version is that they will have more than one sponsor.
The authority believes this will diminish fears of any one individual or organisation gaining undue influence over pupils. Birmingham's academies will also work within area networks made up of a number of other schools.
The idea is that the benefit of the sponsor - which can also be given in the form of services, unlike the standard version - is shared across the whole network.
Another difference, under the Birmingham version, is that the schools will not necessarily be totally rebuilt, but refurbished under the BSF programme.
David Gould, the head of St Albans Church of England School in Highgate, one of the sites the city council is planning to turn into an academy, said the move was "a great opportunity".
Speaking to The Birmingham Post shortly after the announcement, he said it would provide a much-needed injection of resources to the deprived inner city site.
But union leaders have been more sceptical.
Brian Carter, Midland regional secretary of the National Union of Teachers, claimed sponsors were "buying goodwill in the communities, they are buying the schools and out goes democratic responsibility".
The union is concerned that academies will take over publicly-owned school assets and fix their own pay and conditions, allowing them to unfairly compete with other schools.
The NUT has also been critical of the authority for failing to consult the public on the plans before pushing them through.