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2002 is over, now it's crunch time

Let's hope it really will be a happy new year because 2003 looks like being a crunch time for ICT in education. The annual BETT technology show at Olympia, London, next week (January 8-11) should provide us with a litmus test for what is to come.

The Government's ambitious Curriculum Online project is about to kick in with the launch of its new portal, through which it is intended that schools should procure digital learning materials. These materials will be used by teachers and students on the National Grid for Learning networks, the products of a massive government investment.

The expected teething problems are already with us in the form of delays and the market distortion that is believed to have cut revenue for some small software publishers by as much as 70 per cent (news, p4). And an announcement is expected from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on the BBC's plan to produce some pound;127 million of free materials that could hit the publishers even harder (and how long would they be free?). Failure to deal with this fairly and openly could damage the market that has supplied schools with expertise and innovation and leave the Government open to legal actions, which will be both damaging and embarrassing in the long term.

Such an outcome would not be worthy of the great strides being made in establishing good practice in ICT in classrooms throughout the UK, which BETT visitors can see for themselves at Becta's ICT in Practice Awards (news, p6), let alone the fascinating attempts to define a school of the future (p17). The awards, supported by The TES, Pearson and BT, will be presented at BETT on Thursday, January 9, at 11am in the Apex room. (For those not going to BETT, TES Online and TES Teacher will showcase the good practice uncovered by the awards throughout 2003.) The presentation is supported by the TES keynote lecture, given this year by forthright former headteacher and now consultant and government adviser Marian Brooks, who will be outlining what teachers and students need from the National Grid for Learning. If you can, join us for an enlightening morning.

For readers spared BETT's Olympian experience, and the info-overload and collapsing calves it can induce, we have a subject-by-subject tour of what's new for your classrooms (pp18-39) and we ask students what software and sites they recommend (pp14-15).

The welcome return of Arnold Evans' Spam (p6) and Confessions of an ICT Co-ordinator (p42) will tickle your ribs and in our Hands On section (pp45-74) we test a range of technologies, focusing on digital video (p48), the digital darkroom (p52), best practice with whiteboards (p64) and what's new in networks (p71). Finally, don't forget to find out about TES Newsday 2003 (p12, p36) - you could win an RM Tablet PC worth pound;799.

Whether or not we meet you on the TES stand (E20) at Olympia next week, have a happy and successful 2003.

Merlin John, editor

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