Middle schools will be phased out by 2015 if the funding is secured
Campaigners have vowed to continue their fight against the abolition of middle schools in Bedford.
Borough councillors voted 19 to 17 on Monday in favour of moving to a two-tier system of education.
The government has pledged £300m to fund the scheme under the Building Schools for the Future programme.
One councillor called it a "momentous decision" while campaigner Tony Dadd said: "The fat lady's started to sing but she ain't finished yet."
The majority of parents of current pupils who responded to a consultation document said they preferred to retain the present three tier system, while most head teachers favoured the two tier system.
For too long our education system...has failed the young people of this borough and the standards have been too low
David Sawyer Bedford Borough Council
Mr Dadd from the Save Middle Schools campaign said: "The funding still has to be there.
"Several councillors said strongly if the money's not there then we can't do this and I think this is going to be the main issue over the next few months."
David Sawyer, portfolio holder for Children's Services, said: "This momentous decision shapes the future of education in Bedford Borough and settles the uncertainty which has existed since 2006.
"For too long our education system, which is out of step with the National Curriculum and has two transfers, has failed the young people of this Borough and the standards have been too low."
Public notices will now be published for the expansion of all lower schools to become primary schools for pupils aged 4 to 11 years, all upper schools to become secondary schools for pupils aged 11 to 18 years and the closure of all middle schools.