Schools searching for fresh ideas will find rich pickings at the Education Show

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The Independent Online

Three weeks from now, thousands of teachers will flock to the annual Education Show eager to see new products and resources. And this year they'll have the chance to get a bit more physical – by trying out their cycling skills in the new Every Child Matters zone.

The Education Show, which runs from 26 to 28 March at Birmingham's NEC Arena, has five traditional zones, covering arts, early-years, ICT, publishing and software, and special needs. And then there is the new Every Child Matters zone, where exhibitors will offer resources, services and ideas linked to the Government's Every Child Matters agenda, which aims to ensure the wellbeing of all children from birth to 18.

Teachers can find out about ways to help pupils stay fit and healthy, get advice on child safety and bullying, and try out the latest outdoor play equipment. There will also be stands devoted to gardening, whether teaching children about organic vegetables or how to grow food in a box.

"For the past two years we've had a very successful healthy schools zone. This year we wanted to make things broader," says Keith Clifford, marketing manager at Emap Education, the organisers of the show.

The Education Show is expected to attract around 15,000 visitors, with 600 exhibitors showing their wares. Representatives will be on hand, from the Amateur Swimming Association, to the National Osteoporosis Society, to the Royal Academy of Dance. The British Heart Foundation will be offering its active schools pack. Even Tesco will be there to promote its Great School Run programme. And Bikeability, which runs a government-approved cycling proficiency test, will host a stand. It hopes teachers will sign up to the scheme, watch children in the demonstration area and even have a go themselves.

Bikeability is administrated by Cycling England and is designed to give children the skills and confidence they need on two wheels. The cycling award can be taken at three levels, depending on age. It can also be done as a PE lesson. Seventy per cent of local authorities in England are now registered to the scheme.

"The Education Show is a major part of letting people know all about the scheme," explains Paul Robison, Bikeability's manager.

He says learning to ride a bike gives children independence and gets them fit. However many parents think it's too dangerous, so Bikeability aims to reassure them and give their children proper road sense. They also hope to recruit more teachers as instructors.

Bikeability wants half a million 10-year-olds to have done their proficiency test by 2012. Ultimately they want every child to know how to ride safely, which is why they chose to be in the Every Child Matters zone.

The show will also feature some 90 ICT and software suppliers. There will be a number of seminars too, focusing on such issues as how to make the best use of ICT to support dyslexic learners.

Schools can use the new Harnessing Technology Grant to buy ICT infrastructure and equipment, as part of £600m that has been allocated to local authorities for 2008 to 2011. Funds are then doled out to eligible schools.

"Teachers and head teachers should have the grant in mind when they come to the show," says Clifford. "This is the ideal place to get information about the grant and to look at products available." The grant is aimed at big infrastructure, and doesn't cover software that was available under the old e-learning credit system. Infrastructure could include computer suites, virtual learning environments and learning platforms.

The show will also have a new feature area called the Big Bang, for teachers who want to get pupils excited about science. The Institute of Chemical Engineers will show that demonstrations can be safe and fun. And you can meet ED-E, a humanoid robot designed by RM, the educational ICT provider.

Clifford says many teachers, especially at the primary level, are uncertain about teaching science. "There is a certain fear about standing up in front of a class and doing an experiment," he says. "At the show, teachers can watch live experiments, have a play, and take that inspiration back to their schools."

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