The Labour Schools minister Andrew Adonis would be offered a ministerial post by the Conservatives if they won the next election.
But the Tory leader, David Cameron, is making it clear Lord Adonis, the architect of the Government's flagship academy schools programme, would have to quit Labour, although even if he refused, he could be given a key post in helping run the education service.
The offer was revealed by Michael Gove, the shadow Schools Secretary. He said: "Andrew Adonis has contributed hugely to education reform in this country. He has great skills which I hope will continue to be serving education in this country whoever forms the next government.
"If we were fortunate enough to be entrusted with office, I would want to make sure that Andrew Adonis carried on playing a part in bringing standards up in the state school sector."
The Tories believe Gordon Brown has watered down the original vision for the academies programme devised by Lord Adonis and Tony Blair, in particular by allowing local authorities to veto plans for academies.
Mr Gove added: "I don't want to embarrass [Lord Adonis] and make his position more difficult but I know David Cameron would be happy to have him serving as a minister provided he left the Labour Party, or carrying on in some role [if he did not]. My view is we want talented people who want the best for this country and Andrew Adonis is one of them."
Lord Adonis refused to comment. Left-wingers opposed his academies strategy, saying it handed over the running of state schools to private entrepreneurs.
Mr Gove said a future Tory government would support headteachers introducing a dress code for teachers to increase pupil respect for them. Mr Gove and Mr Cameron had visited Walworth Academy in south-east London, where the policy is already in place.
* The Duke Of York has agreed to be president of Wellington Academy, set up with backing from the independent Wellington College, to cater mainly for Service families in Ludgershall, Wiltshire.Reuse content