Eton's plan to create three new sixth forms has been approved as part of the Department for Education's (DfE) free school programme.

Eton, where many of the country's prime ministers such as David Cameron and Boris Johnson attended, will contribute about £1m per college annually on top of current funding levels.

Each of the sixth-form colleges will admit 240 students a year, and have 480 students across Year 12 and Year 13 when full.

A spokesperson for Eton College and Star Academies said the aim was that most of its students would aspire to go to a top university and "this will be reflected in the GCSE results they will need for admission".

They will be called Eton Star Dudley, Eton Star Oldham and Eton Star Teesside. They will be co-educational, unlike Eton, and the students will not wear the traditional Eton uniform of a black tailcoat, the spokesperson added.

The DfE has approved 15 new schools - including the three Eton Star sixth forms - in parts of the country where education outcomes are weakest.

Alongside new Eton copycats, a northern version of the Brit School is also in development in Bradford.

Plans have also been approved for two university technical colleges, one new all-through school for pupils aged four to 16, a primary school, two secondary schools and a further five 16-19 free schools.

New northern Etons

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: "We want to make more good school places available to families, and these 15 new free schools will bring brand new opportunities to young people from Bradford to Bristol.

"Free schools bring high standards, more choice for parents and strong links to industry - and all in the areas where those opportunities are needed most."

The focus of the Eton Star colleges will be to admit pupils on free school meals, from disadvantaged postcodes or those who would be the first in their families to go to university.

Students are promised an education based on "the best that is on offer at Eton and the best of Star Academies".

Star Academies is a not-for-profit academy trust running dozens of primary and secondary schools in England.

Eton's headmaster, Simon Henderson, said: "We believe Eton Star has the potential to be transformative both for the young people who attend and for the wider communities it will serve.

"Now the hard work really starts as we turn our vision into reality."

Star Academies' chief executive, Sir Hamid Patel, told the BBC: "We are confident that the Eton Star sixth forms will produce extraordinary, transformative outcomes, not only for their students but for the wider communities too.

"With a growing demand for sixth-form places in these areas, we aim to enable more young people to benefit from a high-quality academic education and to broaden the opportunities available to them both during and after their sixth-form studies."

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said it was "concerned" about whether there was detailed evidence demonstrating a local need for more places.

He said: "We are aware that some high-profile examples announced today were trailed in the media before applications had even opened, and long before evidence could be gathered.

"In some cases, what evidence is available does not point to an established track record of success in sixth form provision."