Sal McKeown finds some some favourites at the BETT Awards  

My abiding memory of the BETT Awards 2017 will be of Danny Young (pictured above), founder and managing director of j2e jumping up and down on the stage in ecstatic delight at winning the award for "ICT Tools for Learning, Teaching and Assessment – classroom aids".

We all like to see a happy winner and his enthusiasm was contagious. He even had hard-bitten host and award presenter Jenny Éclair grinning. (Full information about BETT Awards 2017.)

His colleague Geoff Titmuss, technical director at j2e, was equally thrilled when I caught up with him on their stand the next day. He pointed out that while different components of j2e had won accolades, this was the first award for the whole suite of online software that children use through a browser.

He was also very pleased that they had received a commendation from the judges in the category for "ICT company of the year less than £3 million". "We have seen a growth in use and a growth in sales," he said, "and we are now even more widely used in schools in London through LGFL [the London Grid for Learning]. A BETT award definitely brings greater recognition from overseas markets."

The BETT judges were impressed: "J2e grows with the child from early years to the end of primary. The Just2Easy Toolsuite is an excellent application which ticked all the boxes; it fits with other products used in classrooms, covering teaching, learning and assessment. It is easy to assess and track pupils with excellent instructions: a clean and clear interface for pupils."

China picks UK 'commended' outfit for assessments

Chinese students use GL AssessmentChinese students use GL Assessment softwareOverseas sales are these days a key plank in the BETT strategy so it was good news for GL Education that it was highly commended in the BETT Awards 2017 for ICT Exporter of the Year (the winner was Impero). The company has secured a 10-year partnership agreement with the Ministry of Education in China and this means that its Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4) will be available in Mandarin.

I have great respect for their assessments which are thorough and robust. I hope China is not planning to use them just to pinpoint potential high fliers but will follow UK practice in identifying young people with undiagnosed special educational needs and for developing better teaching methods to help those who are making little progress.

Wang Su, director of the International and Comparative Education Research Center, National Institute of Education Sciences, said: "As an important starting point for formative assessment in our country, we want CAT4 to be the catalyst for a nationwide movement to get the best out of every boy and girl in China, irrespective of economic status." Perhaps Justine Greening should take a leaf out of their book while she is still in post.

In relative terms DigiExam is a BETT newbie but they still walked away with the award for "Higher Education/Further Education Digital Services". Gustaf Nordbäck, their head of global expansion, said the award recognised the role of DigiExam in helping teachers and lecturers bring assessment into the 21st century.'

Launched in 2014, DigiExam is billed as a time saver with the makers claiming that teachers and trainers can reduce their marking time by between 40 and 100 per cent. The statistics are impressive: 2,200 schools, colleges and universities; 80 countries worldwide; 150,000+ students and more than 500,000 digital assessments and exams.

'TeacherIn cuts out the recruitment middle man — the agencies

TeacherIn teamTeacherIn team: l-r Martin Mathews, Peter Carpenter, Nadene MackayAnother newbie is TeacherIn (see "New app spells disruption for 'supply teacher' agencies"). This one is so new that it was only launched in the UK in September 2016. It is an app that specialises in connecting schools with pre-vetted supply teachers and is much cheaper than recruitment agencies.

With the recent emphasis on teacher shortages and talk of shortening the school day or introducing a four-day week, senior managers may feel that this is an ideal solution. It has proved popular in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore where schools pay an annual flat fee, and in return can send out job alerts and book supply teachers at the touch of a button.

I managed to snatch a quick word with Sean Gardner, chief executive of Tute, winner of the category "ICT Tools for Learning, Teaching and Assessment – whole school aids". He was off to deliver a seminar and as we wove our way through the crowds on the BETT floor he told me that this is the fourth year for the company which boasts 350,000 students worldwide and more than 15,000 hours of online education.

Schools using Tute in UK and Hong Kong

There are 400 schools in the UK which are using Tute for exam revision, catch-up, alternative provision, GCSE and A-Level Courses. It is rather like hiring a private tutor so it works for children who are out of school, who are falling behind up or who need a boost and some more intensive work before exams. It uses qualified, experienced teachers who have been vetted and offers specialist teaching to small groups wherever they may be.

Hong Kong schools are beginning to see the benefits of using the system now so Sean feels that the award is particularly timely. "We have been researching and evaluating our offering over the last two years," he told me, "so we are confident we can prove impact but the rigour of a BETT award gives us a stamp of approval that is recognised world-wide."

The BETT awards have always represented industry recognition for companies of all sizes that are in the forefront of innovation. What is becoming increasingly apparent post-Brexit is that they could also prove to be a seal of approval and provide leverage for those businesses keen to move into new markets.

Full list of winners and commended at the BETT Awards 2017

Sal McKeownSal McKeown, is a freelance journalist covering disability, education and technology. She was CIPR Business Education Journalist of the year 2015

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