More than 700 groups say they are interested in starting a "free school" in England. The government says half are made up of teachers.
Groups can now apply to set up a new "state-funded independent school".
Education Secretary Michael Gove says the scheme will drive up standards, but critics say other schools will lose out. Teaching unions are united in their opposition to them.
The BBC reports the free schools policy is similar to the charter schools system in the United States and another in Sweden.
The first are expected to open in September next year.