§ Mr. Barry Jones
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the Excellence in Cities programme. 
§ Ms Estelle Morris
Excellence in Cities (EiC) addresses the educational problems of our major cities. It provides new opportunities for gifted and talented children; learning mentors to tackle barriers to learning; learning support units to take disruptive pupils out of the classroom; city learning centres; small education action zones; and more beacon and specialist schools.
The programme has been running just over a year in the first 25 local education authorities. By September this year, there will be 58 authorities in the programme covering close to a third of all secondary pupils aged 11 to 16. We will also be introducing excellence clusters in seven areas from September which will pilot the EiC approach in areas of deprivation beyond the big cities—such as rural areas and coastal towns.
Excellence in Cities is already making a real difference. Last year, in the first EiC areas, the percentage of pupils getting five good GSCEs or their equivalent increased by nearly twice as much as it did in other areas. The biggest increases were in the most deprived schools where over half the pupils are entitled to free school meals. In those same areas the numbers of pupils leaving schools with no qualifications fell twice as fast as elsewhere.
Finally, Excellence in Cities has provided dramatic examples of reductions in exclusions. The whole programme has been widely welcomed by schools and teachers.695W
All this underpins our commitment to a programme which, when fully implemented, will account for over £300 million a year, and will change both the perception and reality of our city schools. A detailed account of the first year of the EiC programme is contained in our publication "Excellence in Cities Report: March 1999 to September 2000" (a copy of which is in the House of Commons Library).