Three Croydon schools have beaten off stiff competition to win specialist status from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES).

Coulsdon High, Woodcote High and Westwood High schools are just three of the 13 London schools to have been granted the status, it was revealed on February 4.

Technology college status means the three schools will receive £100,000 each this September to develop their school and raise standards across the curriculum, particularly in their specialist subject.

Hundreds of schools submitted bids in October 2001 but less then half were shortlisted.

Each school had to raise £50,000 before being considered for specialist status.

Westwood High School for Girls, Upper Norwood, was chosen to become a specialist language college after being recognised as a centre of excellence for languages. The school will build a multimedia modern language centre with video-conferencing facilities and will extend its programme of overseas visits.

Its language teachers will give training to other secondary schools in the borough and it will become a training centre for language teachers.

Woodcote High School, in Coulsdon, is one of only a small number of UK schools given a specialist sports college status.

The school will work with other institutes and sports clubs and will set up an overseas exchange scheme as well as providing improved facilities for disabled students.

More developments are possible through an additional £123 per student from the DfES over the next four years, allowing it to benefit from £650,000 in total.

Headteacher Derek People, who helped raise cash by running in last year's London Marathon, said: "We believe sport plays a unique role in raising all-round levels of student achievement and actively promotes the involvement of the wider community. Our first step will be to begin work on a state of the art health and fitness suite which will be used as both a school and community resource."

Coulsdon High school will receive £400,000 over the next three years after achieving specialist status for maths, science, IT and design technology. The school plans to build three design technology laboratories and extend the school's learning and resource centre.

Headteacher Colin Mackinlay, who takes his post in April, said: "I must pay tribute to my predecessor Pat Mennie who spent many months working and developing the bid."

Acting headteacher Maureen Stacey said: "The pupils cheered when we broke the news at assembly, they know this will make a difference to their results."