Forward with technology in spite of the squeeze

Michael Shaw & Georgia Laird

Staff on the trade stands at next week's Bett education technology show at Olympia will be hoping that schools have not been spooked by warnings of a future cash squeeze.

More than 700 suppliers are due to display products at the four-day exhibition, which around 29,000 teachers and education workers are expected to attend.

Ray Barker, director of the British Educational Suppliers' Association, said its members would be frustrated by MPs' warnings this week that schools faced an "austere" future.

"Comments like that can create a self-fulfilling prophecy," he said. "It's important that schools are spending money on the things they need, rather than saving in case something happens. There is concern out there - but we are very hopeful about Bett."

The lack of ring-fenced funding for ICT this year may also make schools less willing to spend.

But Mr Barker said that the 2010 deadline set by Government for all schools to have learning platforms would encourage many to invest in those systems, as well as lesson materials and other content to put on them.

Rebuilding work through the Building Schools for the Future programme may also inspire schools to look at devices that will better suit their new 21st century classrooms.

Among these will be new interactive, touch-screen computer tables such as the Microsoft Surface and Smart's Smart Table, which several pupils can touch at once.

And where would the classroom of the future be without a robot? The education computer giant RM will be launching its MechRC, a humanoid robot which pupils can program.

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Michael Shaw & Georgia Laird

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