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Pools of ideas to dive into

The Business of Water. CD-Rom for Multimedia PC and Mac. Free to schools in Thames Water area, from Education Liaison, Thames Water Utilities, Nugent House, Vastern Road, Reading, Berks RG1 8DB. Tel: 0118 9399 690

Splash into Water. CD-Rom for Multimedia PCs, free to schools in North East Water area; Pounds 49.85 (incl VAT) elsewhere. Northumbrian Water, PO Box 10, Allendale Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 2SW. Tel: 0191 284 3151

SATCOM Water Module. CD-Rom (or floppies) for Multimedia PC and Acorn, Pounds 49.50 (incl VAT, ex p+p). WWF-UK, Education Distribution, PO Box 963, Slough SL2 3RS. Tel: 01753 643104

There seems an inverse ratio at work in the field of sponsored educational publications. The worse your public image, the better the quality of materials. Shell is the exemplar, with British Nuclear Fuels following close behind. Now it's the turn of the privatised utilities - fat cats and all - to show what they can do. They don't buck the trend.

Both The Business of Water, from Thames Water, and Splash into Water, from Northumbrian Water, are exceptionally well produced. Clearly, they have spent a good deal of time and trouble to research and produce these materials. Educational need is high on the agenda; the propaganda element is subdued and excusable. Furthermore, in both cases, the publications will be distributed free within the catchment area and made available at reasonable prices elsewhere.

The Business of Water targets economics and business studies at A-level and advanced GNVQ level. The heart of the product is a series of nine case studies and activities, each revealing the complexities and challenges of running a large business such as Thames Water. The case studies are factual explorations of aspects of business such as environmental compliance and privatisation, while the activities, often involving role plays, explore such topics as the stakeholder economy and the skill of decision making. Among the well designed materials is a dual MacPC CD-Rom that is used exclusively, and sensibly, as a resource item - gallons of information and no techo-gimmickry.

At the other end of the scale is Splash into Water which is aimed at primary schools and comprises a CD-Rom for PC. Used alone, or in conjunction with a wide range of other materials from Northumbrian Water, Splash into Water is best suited to key stage 2. It's bright, lively and very easy to negotiate. The World Wide Fund for Nature, whose public image is far distant from that of the privatised water companies, has been producing the highest quality resources since the 60s. The award-winning SATCOM is one of its most recent and ambitious projects.

The concept, with the help of an excellent CD-Rom, places students at the controls of a satellite orbiting earth, from where you can zoom into hotspots to investigate topics. The Water Module examines six locations (and other themes) with every opportunity for cross-curricular applications in the 9 to 14 age range and beyond.

The CD-Rom is vivid and exciting and the supporting materials accessible and useful. Written by the irascible Ken Webster, the text is refreshingly pithy and direct.

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