Manufactured and tested in the United States, the award-winning chair does not yet conform to British or EU strength and stability standards. However, it is good-looking and well-finished and makes a pleasant change from the widely-used polypropylene seat on a tubular metal base.
The chair has a comfortable rounded waterfall front-seat edge and has a hole in the back which adds to comfort and ease of movement. It stacks well and has spacers on the inside of the front legs which leave a gap to help staff or pupils lift it from the stack. The chair has a plastic insert to protect the laminated legs from wear. It also has a matching table.
Community Playthings has spent a great deal of time researching furniture sizes. So the chair comes in a range of heights to accommodate the difference in stature of various pupils of similar age.
The idea of a mixture of heights is well founded but may not find favour in the UK. Having been party to many surveys in schools, I have frequently seen the smallest pupil sitting "in state" on the largest chair. But I would be happy to be proved wrong.
Both the chair and the table are extremely well engineered and, from the look of them, should last. However, there is a price to pay. Costs per chair vary between Pounds 42 and Pounds 48 (plus VAT), according to size. The matching table in various heights and shapes costs between Pounds 68 and Pounds 79 (plus VAT).
I would hope that with the introduction of the higher sizes later in the year the price will come down and schools will benefit from the extra choice.
* Community Playthings, Darvell, Robertsbridge, East Sussex TN32 5DR.Tel: 0800 387457. Stand F20
Steltube has a new range of furniture designed especially for the expansion in the nursery market - a set of two chairs and a sofa made from laminated birch with a choice of vinyl or fabric upholstery, ideal in size for reception children.
The chair and the sofa are available in the nursery seat height of 290mm, with a matching table - also with laminated birch legs - 500 mm high. There are three fabric colours available in Camborne Main Line - red, royal blue and Erin green - and three in vinyl - pink, purple and light green. The seat and back are positioned with a slot which acts as a handle.
The range is currently being tested for strength and stability to conform to Department for Education and Employment guidelines. The set of furniture looks good, is well constructed and will enhance any nursery unit. It would offer a very good alternative to the traditional polypropylene chair and metal-framed table.
The natural wood appearance is more domestic in style and should be well received by the young pupils and staff.
As schools tend to "market" their facilities this range would give a welcome boost.
The chair costs Pounds 44 to Pounds 48 and the sofa Pounds 58 to Pounds 62 plus VAT, depending on the fabric specified. The 500x1000mm table costs Pounds 35 plus VAT.
* Steltube, Leigh Industrial Estate,The Causeway, Maldon,Essex CM9 4LJ Tel: 01621 857273. Stand C6
The Axess chair was first shown at the show last year, but during the past 12 months Tony Hill at Stage Systems has developed it to withstand the rigours of pupil and adult misuse. If you wish to maximise the flooring area of your hall, this should be on your list.
The upholstered chairs look very good. They can be linked in straight or curved rows conforming to fire regulations. Set out with 750mm between rows, you can have eight rows of Axess chairs to seven rows of conventional auditorium chairs. The extra row can make all the difference, especially if the school is hiring out the hall to increase its revenue.
Schools have bought 1,200 chairs so far and Stage Systems is receiving very encouraging reports. There is a choice of six standard colours in Camborne Main Line (40 per cent wool and 60 per cent viscose) or Camborne Main Line Plus (67 per cent wool, 28 per cent fire-resistant blend of viscose with 5 per cent nylon). I would recommend the latter with its fire-resistant qualities for hall use. If in doubt, consult your local fire prevention officer.
The cantilevered steel under-frame is available in light and dark grey epoxy paint.
The Axess chair costs Pounds 49.50 or Pounds 50.50, depending on the fabric specified. If you are purchasing large numbers, it is worth checking on discounts, and remember to purchase a chair trolley for every 25 chairs.
Stage Systems supplies across the education sector, so is very concerned about strength standards. The Axess chair is in the process of being tested to level 5, which is essential for school use.
* Stage Systems, Stage House, Prince William Road, Loughborough LE11 OGN. Tel: 01509 611021. Stand D13