Leading educators and policy influencers to gather for two new conferences at BETT 2011

Two brand new conferences have been announced to take place alongside educational technology show BETT 2011 at London, Olympia. The first, 'World Education Leaders @ BETT', will gather policy makers and influencers from across the globe, on Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 January. The emphasis throughout will be on how education systems can best prepare learners for future challenges. Attention will be paid to how far technology solutions are being effectively used to this end.

The second, entitled 'UK Education Leaders @ BETT', will gather the UK's leading educators and policy influencers, and will serve as a platform for a very robust debate around the effects of the coalition Government's strategies. Held on Thursday 13 and Friday 14 January, the conference will 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 QCDA.

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) is one of the first names confirmed on the panel. Toby Young, associate editor of the Spectator, author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and a former contributing editor at Vanity Fair, is busy creating a free school in Acton West London and has also confirmed his attendance.

Toby Young explains his reasons for involvement in the conference: "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."

Christine Blower stated: "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, commented: "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 takes place on Wednesday 12 to Saturday 15 January 2011 at London, Olympia.

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