Education is big business but the disconnect between rhetoric and reality could be seen at the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) briefing on opportunities in the US market which attracted less than 10 people (it had seating for at least 150). UKTI tried to make a big splash at BETT and I guess they must have spent at least £150k on their stand and double that when you add in staffing and travel. I have only ever met someone from UKTI at a Google drinks party and they didn’t bother to reply to my follow-up email. But it’s not just UKTI, you need joined up thinking in a major market like education. UKTI’s parent the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) haven’t ever bothered to publish the industrial strategy they commissioned about education (nor a subsequent review. I don’t care if it’s Gove, Willets, Umunna, Hunt or Beevis and Butt-Head; someone needs to sort out BIS and its subsidiaries, because if they can’t get it right for education, then what hope does UK PLC have?
The disconnect isn’t just exemplified by the empty seats at BETT, what’s worse is UKTI’s GREAT Tech Awards.
This is a tech competition that brought five US tech companies (including edtech start-up TeachBoost) to London, put them up in a swank hotel and arranged for them to meet ‘a senior representative at 10 Downing St’. I can’t recall them doing anything similar for the UK edtech start-ups I know. It’s stuff like this that makes me pine for Learning Without Frontiers and why I’m spending my own money (without any assistance from UKTI) to get to SXSWedu in Texas next month.