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Best buys

Gerald Haigh asks schools to name their best recent acquisition.

Bournville Infants School is delighted with the school's "scanning photocopier". This is effectively a very sophisticated ink duplicator. You put the original under a cover and the machine does the rest. Head Pam Dexter finds that its advantages are speed and cost. "Photocopying is laborious by comparison - this thing spews out copies at an alarming rate, for virtually the cost of the stencil and the paper. It counts them for you as well. We plan in year groups, and it means making worksheets in sets of up to 96. This is much cheaper than photocopying. From my point of view it's a wonderful piece of equipment."

Alcatel Roneo 9010S, leased from a local dealer. Alcatel is at Unit 4, Albany Park, Frimley Road, Camberley, Surrey GU15 2PL. Tel: 01276 686938.

o Many schools and classrooms play their cassette tapes on ordinary domestic radio-cassette machines. Equipment specifically made for the classroom, though, is not only more robust but provides better sound quality and is much more flexible in use - there is usually, for example, the facility to plug in several sets of headphones. Chaucer County Primary, in Fleetwood, Lancashire, recently equipped most of its 16 classrooms with a Coomber cassette recorder. Each comes with six headsets, so that the machine can be used by individuals or by a group.

"We identified it as a need," explains head Tim Gill, "and we had the money in the budget so we bought them all in one fell swoop."

There is, he pointed out, an increasing amount of material available on cassette tape, including lots of children's stories.

"We use them all the way through from nursery to Year 6, for listening skills, stories, or music. And of course children have the facility to record and listen to their own work."

Model 393, Pounds 99.95. A pack of headphones costs Pounds 138.91. Coomber Electronic Equipment, Croft Walk, Worcester WR1 3NZ. Tel: 01905 612701.

o Staff at Matthew Moss High School in Rochdale have been having an interesting time playing with a wooden paddle and a box of beads. Matthew Moss staff are typical of the increasing number of heads and senior teachers interested in the management principles of the late W Edwards Deming, whose famous "Experiment on Red Beads" is intended as a discussion starter in management training.

The experiment uses a box of beads - mostly red, representing good products but with a fixed proportion of white, representing bad products. Groups of people representing production workers dip into the box with an indented paddle that holds a fixed number of beads. The proportion of red to white beads is counted and recorded, and staff are rewarded or penalised on their "performance". It becomes frenetic and people are "sacked" and "promoted". In fact rewards and penalties are irrelevant because the proportion of red to white is outside the control of the workers. Deming's point is that much of what happens in the real world of work is like this - people are exhorted to improve when management should be looking for the real reasons for failure. The experiment would obviously be useful in a range of applications with senior pupils as well as for staff training.

The box at Matthew Ross belongs to Rochdale Authority, which is keen to promote Deming principles in school. Kit, booklet and video Pounds 99 plus VAT from the British Deming Association, The Old George Brewery, Rolleston Street, Salisbury SP1 1DX. Tel: 01722 412138.

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