§ Mr. Hesford
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what recent steps his Department has taken to improve standards in inner city schools. 
§ Ms Estelle Morris
In order to improve standards in inner city schools, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment has introduced Excellence in Cities (EiC). This is building on the measures already introduced to raise standards in all schools such as the literacy and numeracy strategies. The programme was launched in March 1999, and initially covered secondary schools in 25 authorities. It expanded in March this year to include a further 22 authorities and76W a primary pilot in the original EiC authority areas. Total spending for Excellence in Cities will be some £400 million over the first three years of the programme.
As a direct result of the first phase of the programme, there are already:
- Some 800 learning mentors appointed and working in schools;
- 49 City Learning Centres identified—the first to open in the autumn;
- Over 200 learning support units established;
- Some 100 clusters of schools working together to enhance opportunities for gifted and talented pupils;
- 42 small Education Action Zones planned, with some already on stream; and
- 82 Beacon Schools and 25 specialist schools approved.
Phase 2 will see comparable developments in the new EiC partnership areas.