The secondary version of the literacy and numeracy strategies will run in schools from Brighton to Gateshead, to test the Education Secretary David Blunkett's scheme to stop a slump in pupil performance in the early years of secondary school.
If it is judged a success, every secondary school will be expected to adopt its methods for their 11 to 14-year-olds from September 2001. The pilot, which will begin this September, is the first centralised scheme aimed at boosting the literacy and numeracy skills of this age group.
Previous key stage 3 literacy projects have reported great success since they began in 1998, although were as varied as the local authorities which ran them.
The new scheme has taken many of its ideas from the best practice of previous pilots but also focuses on thinking skills.
Schools in Salford, Cheshire, Gateshead, Wakefield, Solihull, Nottinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Staffordshire, Brighton and Hove and the London Boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich will pilot the initiative for Years 7 to 9 from September.
A Department for Education and Employment spokesman said: "We have invited 13 locl authorities to pilot training and support programmes which may be used as a basis for a future national programme.
"The pilots will initially look at the teaching of English and maths and of literacy and numeracy across the curriculum."
Meanwhile, all schools will be able to see ministers' plans in full when the secondary literacy and numeracy frameworks for Year 7 are published in April. The full
syllabus is due to be published next year.
The secondary literacy framework is similar to the primary version - with word-level, sentence-level and text-level work. However, to the relief of English specialists, it also includes a speaking and listening section, including drama, which teachers have complained is being squeezed out of primaries.
The Government's curriculum quango, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, is also developing guidance to advise schools how to use the whole curriculum to boost standards. Called "Language for Learning" the document will include literacy objectives for every subject for 11 to 14-year-olds and give examples of how they might be achieved in the classroom.
Secondary schemes of work, due out in April, will also aim to show teachers how to focus on literacy skills in subjects such as science, history and geography.