Specialist secondary schools get better GCSE results than others, research shows.
Pupils at specialist schools were more likely to pass exams
Professor David Jesson of York University found 54.1% of candidates had gained five A* to C grades last year.
For ordinary comprehensives this was 46.7%.
Specialist schools also managed a bigger improvement last year than their counterparts, at 3% compared with 2%.
Since they started in 2001, 1,224 specialist schools have been created.
The eight areas covered are technology, languages, arts, sports, business and enterprise, maths and computing, engineering and science.
The government plans to extend the number of specialist schools to 2,000 by 2006.
Specialist Schools Trust chairman Sir Cyril Taylor said: "These excellent results strongly vindicate the government's decision to expand the number of specialist schools and to provide sufficient funds to designate every qualified bid."
Tony Blair's official spokesman infuriated teachers when he said at the programme's launch that the "day of the bog standard comprehensive" was over.
The government has recently announced plans for a humanities specialism and a "rural dimension" for state schools in remote country areas.
To gain specialist status, schools have to raise £50,000 in sponsorship, produce a four-year plan showing how they are going to improve standards and promise to share their expertise with others in the area.
In return, they get a one-off grant of £100,000, plus £123 per pupil extra for at least four years.
Critics say the scheme has created a two-tier state education system, but the government has said all comprehensives which meet the standard can become specialist.