Despite economic gloom, BESA's Dominic Savage finds reasons to be cheerful about BETT
As of January 1 there was £202 million sitting in school budgets in England, earmarked for spending on resources before March 31, 2010. Schools have bought for their regular annual needs earlier in the academic year and will refresh this with new budgets in April.
So that £202 million could be regarded as discretionary spending, not in the sense of ‘optional’, but very much in the sense that this is the time of year when teachers consider what might make a real difference in their classrooms. And this is the major buying period for products which inspire teachers.
The implication is that for companies with innovative new products, who are taking the trouble to market what they have, whether through BETT 2010 or by other means, there will be some good returns in 2010.
The recent DCSF announcement of clawback of unreasonable school surpluses may well add to the money available as schools rush to ensure their savings are not centrally plundered. Add to that the fact that BSF projects are now getting off the ground in good numbers; and we have capital spend which is the envy of much of the world.
So, while we must acknowledge that spending on content is down in primary, and more so in the secondary sector, we enter BETT with some optimism.
Just before BETT, we have the second Learning and Technology World Forum, bringing together more than 70 ministers of education and others from around the globe to share experiences in, and aspirations for, the use of technology in education. These are not idle visits. They have in the past, and surely this year too, set the scene for great relationships between the education industry and ministries globally – and, by implication, good commercial prospects for the years to come.
'We recognise these companies as more than suppliers'
At BETT, the largest and best attended educational technology event in the world, we see the significance of the industry that supplies our needs. Importantly, in the UK, we recognise these companies as more than suppliers. Those who are dedicated to providing innovative solutions to our educational needs and who go to great lengths to support teachers and learners, are truly stakeholders in educational development.
There is no debate that if we want to deliver compelling teaching and learning experiences then we need to ensure that teachers have access to innovative resources and delivery systems on which they can rely. Therefore, from a government perspective, the high investment made in educational technology over the past decade has both been successful in delivering educational improvement and in supporting the thriving commercial education industry that is at BETT.
As BETT opens its doors for the 26th time, the increasing international attendance is recognition that innovations here are sought after elsewhere. Educational exports from the UK continue to increase, providing revenue that supports further investment in the next generation of products. This virtuous circle is one of which the UK can be justly proud and is yet another reason for hope.
Dominic Savage is director general of the British Educational Suppliers Association
January 13-16, Olympia, London
BESA - Stand D46