The Department for Education and Skills will start negotiations with the Treasury next year over the 3780-school scheme. It estimates that there is a £7bn backlog in repairs.
A typical school may need only £2m of work, so the department aims to make the work attractive to larger contractors by amalgamating projects.
The schemes will mirror the NHS' LIFT programme, under which consortiums sign framework contracts to provide several small health clinics and GPs' surgeries. In effect, the contractors would sign joint-venture deals with local education authorities.
A source close to the DfES said: "The department aims to run a number of pathfinder projects to test the scheme."
The department is also looking to bundle repair and maintenance contracts for 2100 voluntary-aided Church of England schools.
A senior adviser to the DfES said the Treasury would have the final say over the level of funding the scheme receives. He said: "We expect to have a strategy in place early next year. The conundrum for the Treasury is that every pound of certainty it gives the education department is a pound of uncertainty for another department."
Schools standards minister David Miliband revealed the proposal to refurbish schools in October.
Much of the DfES' negotiations with the Treasury will be handled by Peter Stanton-Ifes, who became schools programme manager last month. He will oversee the department's capital expenditure programme.
The Department of Transport is another spending department that is looking to expedite a PFI and public–private partnership building programme. It has just appointed Chris Bolt as its PPP arbiter, a role that is likely to focus on the rail programme.