An insider’s guide to Bett

Written by: Terry Freedman | Published:
Bett is back: One of the demonstrations during the Bett Show in 2016 (Image: Jack Terry Photography/Bett Show)

The Bett Show is an annual pilgrimage for many teachers. ICT in education expert Terry Freedman gives us his insider’s guide to this year’s event, which takes place later this month

The Bett show has been going for more than 30 years. One of the problems facing an event that is hugely successful – it enjoys an average of around 30,000 visits – is: how do you make the next one even better?

One of the ways in which the organisers have addressed this is to widen the scope of Bett. From starting out as strictly an education technology show it has grown into more of a STEM event. This is very much indicated this time around in the choice of Heston Blumenthal as one of the keynote speakers. Known as a chef for whom science is very much at the forefront at what he does, Blumenthal is probably worth seeing for the spectacle of his presentation if nothing else.

Another keynote is the ever-popular Sir Ken Robinson, for whom this will be his second Bett appearance. However, I tend to forego the delights of hearing big name speakers, preferring instead to learn from people who have undertaken research or tried things out in schools. As such, the seminar and CPD agenda is the place to look, and there are already quite a few to choose from.

Bett offers its Learn Live CPD workshop sessions throughout the four days of the event, while the School Leaders Summit, offering leadership-specific seminars, runs for the first three days of the show. The School Leaders Summit this year has two streams. Stream 1 sessions probe into some of the biggest challenges facing senior leaders, focusing on innovations and future-gazing. Stream 2 addresses the practical and business challenges of leadership in education.

The CPD, meanwhile, offers a range of sessions. For example, there is a talk about using Twitter in language teaching, measuring edtech success, and using virtual reality to support transition. The Learn Live arenas are focused on: primary teaching, secondary teaching, higher education, further education/skills and SEN. Mixing and matching between them is easy.

It is worth making time to have a look at the exhibition, but as there are going to be more than 600 stands, you may need to be selective. However, it is definitely worth going to the Bett Futures Zone, which is promoted as an exhibition area for smaller start-up companies. It is a bit of a misnomer, because not all of the exhibitors there have just started up, but they are all quite young and quite small. It is always interesting to see what niche products and services are on offer.

In much the same vein, because of the cost of renting stand space at Bett, some micro-businesses or individuals make arrangements with larger companies to have a bit of their space, so it is always worth looking carefully. Also, there may be some interesting ideas being shown as proof-of-concept. Last year, for instance, the Intel stand had several young researchers displaying their wares: products that were not yet commercially available, but that gave you a flavour of things to come. I found it quite inspirational. This time there are some products that do seem a bit different, such the six I have listed below.


This is an interactive application that seeks to assess how vulnerable a minor is online. In my experience, and the research bears this out, the pupils who are most vulnerable offline tend to be the ones that are vulnerable online as well. But perhaps Eaware offers a more objective and robust way of finding out (stand E93).


An online community where teens can ask questions, anonymously if preferred, in a safe environment. This sounds like a good idea to me, though encouraging young people to actually use it could prove to be a challenge. It would be interesting to explore what’s on offer though (Bett Futures Zone).


Given the difficulties of recruiting staff, TeachersRegister sounds interesting. It’s an app that enables schools to contact (vetted) teachers directly, rather than by going through a recruitment agency (stand E42).

Trackit Lights

An app for the interactive whiteboard that tracks every student’s behaviour in real time. It then generates traffic light charts so that students – and everyone else – can see who has been off-task or disruptive in the lesson. If you spend a lot of time dealing with behavioural issues, maybe this is the solution (stand G369).

Stepping into Business

This is a games-based app that attempts to encourage young people to learn real-world skills and to be inspired by enterprise (Bett Futures Zone).


This enables schools to mark exam papers electronically, and even works offline. Apparently all the data is saved constantly, so nothing should be lost if the network crashes or the school is suddenly plunged offline. It’s been shortlisted for Bett Awards in three categories stand G448).

The show website

Do look on the Bett website, and keep looking: changes and additions are made right up to the start of the event itself. On the website you can find listings for all the CPD and seminar sessions. There is a criteria-based search engine for the exhibition too.

It is also worth making mention of one new feature of the Bett website – a section entitled “Game Changers”. In the lead up to the show, a number of history’s “game-changers” are being featured and profiled. Charles Babbage is, perhaps, an obvious choice, given that he is credited with being the “father of the computer”. Emmeline Pankhurst is also on the list of those featured alongside the likes of Marie Curie and Louis Braille.

Next week

In SecEd, next week (Thursday, January 12) I’ll give you some survival advice for when you’re at the show itself to help you make the most from your time at Bett.

  • Terry Freedman is the author of Education Conferences: Teachers’ guide to getting the most out of education conferences, available via He also publishes the ICT & Computing in Education website and the Digital Education newsletter at

SecEd’s Bett Guide 2017

The Bett Show 2017 takes place at London’s ExCeL Arena from January 25 to 28. For full exhibition and seminar listings, visit SecEd’s free guide to the Bett Show 2017 is available to download in pdf format from


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