The news came as it emerged that the DfES is to encourage regional contractors to pitch for the projects rather than major national players.
Whitehall sources believe that this will lead to greater employment for construction staff in the provinces and make the best use of the industry's available capacity.
The DfES is reviewing 30 bids by architects, including Foster and Partners, to provide six template designs for secondary schools and six for primary schools.
Between 10 and 12 architects will be chosen by the end of the month. Final designs will be drawn up during the summer.
The secondary school plans, set out in Building Schools for the Future, are out for consultation. Responses due in this month.
Schools standards minister David Miliband is championing the project. He told Building that the scheme was close to his heart.
He said: "I always found that I was more inspired to learn at school in new classrooms than dilapidated ones."