It was an undercover assignment. I had been sent to check out what was happening at the Under-12s Exhibition at Olympia next month. So, donning my trench coat and picking up my magnifying glass, I headed off to London's Kensington in search of clues. Inside, I saw a man handing out leaflets about the exhibition. As I took one from him, he said he liked my mac. Not sure whether he meant my coat or my laptop, I hurried on. Anyway, here's my confidential report:
NAME;Under 12s Exhibition.
PLACE:National Hall, Olympia, Kensington, London.
TIME:Friday 17 and Saturday 18 September from 10am to 5pm and Sunday 19 September from 10am to 4.30pm.
ENTRY: FREE, if you pre-register (Ring 01923 690646 or fax 01923 690680 for details); otherwise, pound;10 at the door.
WHAT'S COOKING: An Aladdin's cave of resources and ideas. A chance to see and try out hundreds of new products. You can browse through books, test computers and programs, and discuss your needs with suppliers of everything from play equipment to in-service training courses.
WHAT ELSE IS COOKING: Workshops to help teachers led by education experts such as Ted Wragg, Sue Palmer, Andy Vass and Bill Laar.
ALIAS: Previously known as the Under 8s Exhibition run by the weekly magazine, Nursery World.
ACCOMPLICE:The under 12s Exhibition is co-sponsored by TES Primary, and covers the whole infant and junior age range.
Here are some of the things you can expect to see at the show:
* The Rainbow Series of Big Books from Evans Brothers (pound;14.99 each) looks at major religions through the eyes of the children who practice them. Also from Evans will be a series of playscripts suitable for juniors (pound;2.50 each). A special Literacy Pack includes six Murder Mystery Weekend plays and six Snow White plays plus a teacher's book.
* Two new books by Hilary Robinson, Sarah the Spider's Christmas Surprise and Sarah the Spider and the Barn Dancers, can be found on the Belitha Press stand (pound;3.99 paperback, pound;8.99 hardback).
* Educational publisher THRASS will be launching four big books featuring the characters Chloe and Jack, which concentrate on 500 essential words (pound;15 each).
* Topical Resources publishes photocopiable activity books. Its Read, Write and Spell series (pound;12.95 each) offers help with reinforcing high and medium-frequency words through both key stages. There is also a Handwriting Made Simple book to help teach cursive script.
* School Link offers parents a saving of up to 75 per cent on books ordered from their catalogue and each school can earn vouchers to the value of 10 per cent of all orders received.
* Brighter Vision Education will be exhibiting 120 products, including jigsaw puzzles, posters, bulletin board sets and activity books including Poems to Grow On (pound;6.99 each) - and Greek Gods and Goddesses (pound;4.99) - which covers activities across the curriculum. Brighter Vision will also be giving visitors to its stand the chance to win pound;50 worth of classroom resources in a free prize draw.
* LDA, a resource company marking its 25th birthday, will be launching a range of cross-curricular products - Gotchas (from pound;14.95 plus VAT per pack), to help with group or whole class mental maths, and Paper Chains (pound;12.95 plus VAT per set) and Clever Counters (pound;9.95 plus VAT per set), which enable the children to self-check their work. All orders at the stand will carry a 10 per cent discount.
* Practising teacher Christine Mayo's The Plus Bus (pound;12 plus VAT per pack) is aimed at helping four to six-year-olds to begin simple addition and subtraction. There is a 50 per cent discount on orders taken at the exhibition.
* Another teacher, Jane Parry, has developed her Pippin Products learning kits for children across the primary age range that have also been used with special needs children. My Maths Box, as with all her other products, is based on a system of self-checking cards stored in a tray (pound;9.99).
* Hopscotch Educational Publishing is launching Developing Numeracy Skills, a series of photocopiable resource books (one for each year from Reception to the end of KS2, pound;14.99 each). Apart from structured lesson plans for whole class and individual activities, there are ideas for mental maths activities and circle time. Also available at the exhibition is Developing ICT Skills, which comes as a book and CD-ROM (both together pound;34.99).
* Easy Peasy aims to aid the teaching of basic maths using a computer program (pound;29.95) that summarises each mathematical process into a single screen image so pupils can see how they have arrived at their answers.
* Sherston Software offers an interactive CD-ROM for lower juniors that shows how numbers work. Number Works will be available on Windows, Mac and Acorn (pound;49.95 plus VAT).
* Active Designs will be offering new Numeracy Bags that provide a number of activities for work with small infant groups. The Tens and Units Bag (pound;11.50 plus VAT) has two compartments, each holding a set of numbers, one half for tens and one half for units. The Numbers Bag (pound;10.95 plus VAT), will assist with calculations, mental arithmetic and missing numbers.
* Wondering what to do for this year's Christmas concert or play? Fishing for Stars, a KS1 nativity play from Music Sales Ltd (pound;6.95), could be just what you want. Also from the company is The Christmas Songbook (pound;7.95) and a millennium-themed Celebration (pound;6.95).
* More on the millennium comes from Out of the Ark Music. A new musical for children aged five to 12 called Moving On includes a wide variety of styles (book, music and tape pound;19.95, with CD pound;22.95).
* Artstraws will be offering a wide range of arts and craft materials and a new easily removable paint - great for decorating your windows temporarily (pound;4.45 for 250ml bottle).
* Sanford UK will be displaying its Berol Fabric Transfer paints (pound;10 plus VAT for 125ml bottle) and Meltdown Markers (pound;15.60 plus VAT per dozen), for marking dark materials, including plastic, metal, wood and card.
* Physical Education Consultant Brian Coates, who includes dance in his in-service training, will be on hand to put you through your paces, and he offers support materials as well.
* And if you are planning a new climbing structure, Timberline has a selection which includes towers, bridges, swings, tunnels, ramps and firefighters' poles.
WORDS TO THE WISE
The Under 12s Exhibition offers a chance to hear experts from the world of primary education on subjects relevant to teachers. Topics under discussion include:
* The Numeracy Hour (11.30am) will look at some of the issues and address concerns that may have arisen during school in-service training sessions. It will help to consolidate your understanding of what is expected of you as part of the National Numeracy Strategy.
* What makes an effective teacher? (2.30pm) will explore practical ways to develop classroom effectiveness and manage the challenges of different age ranges. This seminar will be led by Professor Ted Wragg, who is a popular contributor to The Times Educational Supplement and TES Primary.
* Gifted children (2.30pm) looks at how to create the best opportunities for above-average pupils as part of day-to-day education in both the nursery and the school.
Saturday 18 * The Literacy Hour (2.30pm) is a chance to hear author and regular TES Primary contributor Sue Palmer discuss the plenary session and how it can be made to support the overall objectives of the National Literacy Strategy and provide practical ideas on running the hour.
* Achieving excellence through valuing individuals (2.30pm) concentrates on helping children raise their self-esteem and respecting their individual contributions - key factors in improving performance. The seminar will relate theory to classroom practice and will be led by Margaret Goldthorpe.
Sunday 19 * In Successful Approaches to Topic Work (11.30am) Jennie Lindon looks at how to plan and document activity outcomes. She examines what is good practice in helping children learn, while satisfying the demands of inspections.
* Learning Sanity in the Classroom (2.30pm) led by TES Primary contributor Andy Vass, promises a down-to-earth approach to managing the types of behaviour problems primary school teachers face daily.
* In Rediscovering Broad Horizons (2.30pm) regular TES Primary contributor Bill Laar will discuss how to set new goals for teaching and learning for children aged three to 12.
* The seminars are always well attended, so you are advised to book your seats in advance. The cost is pound;10 per seminar. Call the ticket hotline on 01923 690646, or fax 01923 690680.
PRIZES TO BE WON....
Visitors will have the chance to win Oxford Reading Tree Games Packs, valued at pound;60 each. Just pick up one of the goody bags - sponsored by the Oxford University Press - on your way in and identify some of the familiar Oxford Reading Tree characters on the leaflet inside. Then explain in no more than 30 words why your pupils enjoy the scheme and return the completed form to the OUP stand at the exhibition. The five winners will be notified later on in September.
HOW TO GET THERE
Train InterCity from Manchester, Birmingham and Brighton to Kensington BR Station
Tube District line to Kensington Olympia (one stop from Earls Court)
Bus Routes 9, 10, 27, 28 and 49 go to Olympia on Hammersmith Road
Primary Spy was assisted by Sue Hubberstey