£2.5mn is being invested in four new areas - Tameside, Skelmersdale, Huddersfield and Coventry.
Ms Morris said that the new clusters would bring increased investment in schools and provide valuable expertise as the drive to raise standards continues to gain pace.
Ms Morris said: 'Excellence Clusters are a key part of our drive to improve standards
in all schools. The clusters are designed to bring the benefits of the successful Excellence in Cities programme to smaller pockets of deprivation - including coastal towns and ex-coalfield and industrial towns.
'Schools in the new clusters will gain from more learning mentors to support teachers, programmes for gifted and talented local pupils, and Learning Support Units to take disruptive pupils out of the classroom.
'Schools in the new clusters will benefit from the same programmes that have seen standards rising in Excellence in Cities areas. This year the 450 secondary schools in the first EiC areas achieved higher than average improvements in their A*-C GCSE results - with a 2.3 percentage point increase from 34.8 per cent to 37.1%.
'The benefits of the clusters approach are also illustrated in the success of education action zones. Recent results in English, Maths and Science tests show pupils in Education Action Zones improving faster than in other schools for both seven and 11-year-olds.
'Clusters are formed around small groups of low-performing schools situated in areas of high deprivation. The first two phases of Excellence in Cities have shown that schools working together to achieve a common goal have more success than those working in isolation.
'Sharing good practice and working together to solve common problems enable schools, teachers and pupils to achieve more, in less time and with better overall results for the community as a whole.'
This notice applies to England.
1. Excellence Clusters are an extension of the Excellence in Cities programme which began in September 1999 and provides secondary schools in most of England's major urban areas with funding to provide extra challenges for gifted children, more staff to help relieve teachers of the burden that social problems like truancy can
impose and more help on and off the school site with discipline.
2. Seven pilot Clusters were announced on 16 Oct 2000. They are in:
- East Lancs (Burnley & Nelson)
- Kirklees (Dewsbury & Batley)
- West Cumbria (Maryport, Whitehaven & Workington)
3. Excellence clusters are funded from the standards fund.£6.5m has now been allocated for the first year (£4m for pilot seven, and£2.5m for new four).
4. The clusters will start in September 2001 or January 2002.
5. The Performance tables show that overall the proportion of pupils achieving 5 good GCSE passes (A*-C) has risen from 47.9% in 1999 to 49.2% this year, and that those achieving five or more 5 A*-Gs rose from 88.5% in 1999 to 88.9% this year. The 450 secondary schools in the first EiC areas - which started in September 1999 - have also shown higher than average improvements this year in their A*-C GCSE results. They have had a 2.3 percentage point increase from 34.8% to 37.1%.
6. Test results in English, Maths and Science have improved faster in the Education Action Zones set up in 1998 than in other schools for both 7 and 11 year olds. Truancy has been reduced and the schools in the zones report extremely positive benefits from improved partnerships with local business. Further investment in 14 new areas as part of the education action zone programme was announced on 26
January (PN 0038).