World Leaders @ BETT, next January 11-12, will bring together government ministers, policy makers and influencers from around the world. It is one of two new conferences announced for BETT 2011. The other will be UK Education Leaders @ BETT, January 13-14 and aimed at UK educators and policy makers, which aims to provide a “robust debate” on the coalition Government’s education strategies.
The announcement is light on detail for the international event other than its focus: “how education systems can best prepare learners for future challenges” with an accent on the role of ICT. This is because organisers have been working behind the scenes to ensure that what was LATWF can continue to provide an important international showcase for the ICT learning “industry”. For example, LATWF 2010 brought in 1,200 leaders from more than 100 countries and these included 70 ministers of education. The turnout represented more than 80 per cent of the world's population. The government of Malaysia alone brought along 50 civil servants to attend the event and then scour BETT for suitable products and services for its schools.
The demise of Becta and the Department for Education’s instruction to cut spending until March, killed LATWF, arguably at a time when it was most needed to help “UK PLC” counter the effects of the worst trading conditions for many years. Organised by Becta, it was a relatively expensive event and is believed to have cost up to £2 million. It is thought that the three key sponsors – Intel, Microsoft and Cisco – are still in place.
The British Educational Suppliers Association is now understood to be lobbying the coalition Government to cut through the red tape and cuts inertia to renew its support for UK businesses.
The UK Education Leaders @ BETT event is already some way on in the planning stage and promises to feature: “Question Time-style debates involving very high profile individuals and focusing on the effects of provisions of the Academies Act, as well as initiatives such as the ‘Free Schools’ programme. Discussions will also take place around the effects of the cancellations of Building Schools for the Future (BSF) projects and the closure of agencies such as Becta and the QCDA.”
Two panel members already confirmed are Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and journalist Toby Young (pictured below), associate editor of The Spectator and author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, who is creating a free school in Acton, West London.
'On social mobility, Britain is bottom of the international league table'
Toby Young explains his presence at BETT: “When it comes to social mobility, Britain is bottom of the international league table of developed countries. Not ‘near the bottom’ or ‘among the bottom countries’, but at the very bottom. One reason for this is the ever-widening attainment gap between state schools and private schools and the best way to close that gap is to allow parents, teachers and voluntary groups to set up independent, taxpayer-funded schools.
“At present, with a few exceptions, only those of the right particular faith who can afford to go private or move into the right catchment areas have access to high performing schools. We need to extend that choice to all parents, regardless of income or faith. I'm looking forward to discussing this at the UK Education Leaders @ BETT conference since BETT is very good at bringing different groups of educators together. Friends or foes of the ‘Free Schools’ policy, I'm sure their input will be invaluable.”
According to Christine Blower, “The NUT believes that the Academies Act is without a doubt the most serious threat to state education as we know it. Some ‘outstanding schools’ are already rebuffing the approach from the secretary of state, and the governing bodies, far from voting in favour of academies, are in fact voting to make public their opposition to the idea.
“There is no argument that taking the academy route is necessary to save jobs or schools; if all the ‘outstanding schools’ did take this route, that would be the end of Local Authorities. The UK Education Leaders @ BETT conference offers a fantastic opportunity for debating this issue with others and sharing valuable opinions with other educators.”
Paul Dunne, managing director of BETT organisers, Emap Connect, comments: “With such a large number of recent changes to education policy, it is important that education professionals have the opportunity to collaborate and discuss the issues that will affect them. BETT 2011 is where educators can learn how to best manage change. With the panel of UK Education Leaders @ BETT speakers still under development, it is already clear that a wide range of views will be expressed about the new Government’s stated desire to encourage new and existing schools to operate more independently.”
BETT 2011, January 12-15 at Olympia, London.
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