BETT Boulevard comes to Birmingham's NECBETT Boulevard comes to Birmingham's NECThe thousands of teachers who annually descend on Birmingham’s NEC arena for a weekend of classroom furniture, playground equipment and primary education products browsing that is the Education Show, are in for a surprise in March.

In a move to update the show, make it more accessible to all teachers – and those unable do their homework on 21st century schools at the recent BETT 2010 – Emap which organises both shows, has added a new feature area. The BETT Boulevard. And it's supporting school staff trips to the event through travel subsidies of up to £150.

“The BETT Boulevard enables us to showcase some of the most innovative BETT exhibitors alongside some of the most established and trusted educational suppliers in the industry,” says Richard Joslin, Emap’s exhibition director. “The potential that technology offers education is unparalleled, a fact reflected by many of the exhibitors at the Education Show, which brings together every resource imaginable in education today.”

"ICT is now so embedded in the everyday practice of all teachers that is important to ensure it has a focus in a show that is known for general education resources," says Ray Barker, director of Education Show partner the British Educational Resources Association (Besa). "It's all about learning, not just e-learning. The recent realisation of the importance of learning spaces for remodelled and new schools in capital projects has meant that we no longer look at furniture, furnishings, materials and ICT as separate items. It's gestalt – the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts, and it all has a bearing on the comfort and engagement of the learners and, ultimately, their achievements."

BETT Boulevard will be located in the For Your School area of the show which is free to attend and has been going for 20 years. Exhibitors planning to show their wares there include Whizz Education – shortlisted for ICT Exporter of the Year and ICT Education Partnership in the prestigious BETT 2010 Awards – and NumberGym, producer of interactive mathematics programs for upper primary and key stage 3 learners.

The Education Show (March 4-6) is aimed at everyone involved in the education sector, from primary teachers to PFI providers. More than 80 seminars and CPD workshops are on offer this year as well as free product training from at least 500 exhibitors on their stands.

Among the seminars are a number focusing on ICT and its place in the transformation of learning. For school leaders, for example, Peter Twining, project director at the Open University will present the Leading Learning with New Technologies seminar. As he is also in charge of Vital (Transforming Lessons, Inspiring Learning), the new £5.6m government-funded partnership between the OU and e-skills UK, designed to provide CPD for the education community to help move the use of ICT in schools and colleges into the 21st Century, there’ll be no prizes for guessing what will be up for discussion.

Other seminars will cover topics including Online Networking for Leadership Development, delivered by Stuart Sutherland from The National College, and The Use of 3D Virtual Online Environments for BSF and Beyond. In the latter Mark Mullis from Middlesbrough City Learning Centre will reveal developments in creating virtual schools in the online 3D world of Second Life so pupils, teachers and governors can see how their design ideas translate and reducing the potential for expensive mistakes.

Schools get travel subsidy to support groups of teachers attending event

The travel subsidy supports schools that want to get their teachers to the show to keep them up to date with what's available for classrooms to support learning and teaching, and to take up continual professional development. The subsidy has its own parameters (check at The Education Show website), but groups of at least 10 staff travelling more than 50 miles can claim a subsidy of up to £150 to hire a coach or minibus. In addition, those travelling on Thursday March 4 can claim an additional £50 bonus.

Schools started to take advantage of the BESA Coach Scheme in 2009, and Liz Steele, headteacher at Glemsford C.P. School, Sudbury, Suffolk, was one of the first heads to take all her staff: “Previously only the deputy head teacher and I attended The Education Show from our school. After the introduction of the BESA Coach Scheme however, every member of our staff now visits as a professional development day.”

Her team will see some big changes at The Education Show 2010 because a major redesign has ensured it will look completely different. The organisers have dispensed with all the 'zones' of previous years. They have opted for simplicity: "For Your School" and "For Your Classroom".

Besa's Ray Barker, who is also an expert on literacy, is encouraging visitors to book into the National Literacy Association's conference on The Future of Reading on the Friday. This will produce a manifesto for what schools for the future should hold, and will include a debate on ebooks. The event will also feature Michael Rosen as a speaker.

Welcome to Innovation Alley

And there's another innovation, one that will be welcomed by the small, innovative companies that struggle to get on to the first rung of the exhibitor ladder at trade shows, none of which are cheap for first-time exhibitors. Innovation Alley is aimed at them. It gives them a minimal set up with an all-in £950 (plus VAT) fee. The UK is known for its innovative "cottage" industries that produce highly innovative products – from equipment to classic software – so this initiative is good news for exhibitors and visitors alike. And it's expected to be made a feature of BETT 2011 too.


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