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Put to the test;Reviews

In every issue of Primary Equipment Review we shall be inviting a selection of Key Stage 1 amp; 2 teachers from all over the country to assess a wide variety of products and then fill in a comprehensive questionnaire. Here we publish the comments of our testers along with a full description and contact numbers for each of the products they have reviewed this time

Octoplay (from pound;16.70) from Polydron

Tested by St Luke's Primary School, Cambridge

This is a model building system based on interlocking eight-sided shapes. The pieces can be slotted togrther in a multitude of ways to create simple through to complex structures. There is a pack of learning activities to support Octoplay, report sheets for children to record their results and a teacher's guide.

* Polydron International Ltd, Kemble, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 6BA (01285 770055, fax 01285 770171). Reference PER 5.98.

Tester's Report

'This was used daily over the testing period,' reports Year 12 teacher, Margaret Edwards. 'We found it most suitable for six to seven year olds who responded very enthusiastically. It makes an excellent starting point when introducing mathematical concepts connected with shape and pattern. The product has excellent learning potential, stimulating the children's imagination and providing suitable challenges. It is also great fun.'

First Electricity Set (pound;42.95) from TTS

Tested by Vicars Green Primary School, Wembley, Middlesex

This consists of a large 'mounting' board covered with a material to which Velcro-backed components stick. Crocodile leads grip on to large terminals and circuits should be easily constructed. The individual components of the set are mounted on coloured wooden bases. The electrical connection to each base is made via a brass eye screwed into the wood, one at each end of the base. There are no intricate electrical connections to be made by pupils as all the components are pre-wired on their base boards to the brass eyes.

* Technology Teaching Systems Ltd, Monk Road, Alfreton, Derbyshire DE55 7RL (01773 830355, fax 01773 830325). Please quote Reference TELSETPER 5.98.

Tester's Report

'This provides all the resources required by the National Curriculum at KS1,' reports Maths Co-ordinator Charmaine Berth. 'Our investigations included how a switch works and how to make more than two bulbs light up. It facilitates whole class teaching and is both user friendly and hands on for the children. It is also made of durable materials. Definitely something we would like to have permanently in the school.'

IKU 3-D System - Baby 2 (from pound;45) from Wizard Games

Tested by Monnow Infants School, Gwent

This wooden construction system offers progression from basic stacking blocks and involves linking pieces using holes and dowels.

* Wizard Games, 26A Wembley Park Drive, Wembley, Middx HA9 8HA

(telephonefax 0181 903 7002). Reference PER 5.98.

Tester's Report

'This makes possible very simple to very complicated constructions and is lovely to handle,' reports Deputy Head, Jill Lewis. 'The children were very enthusiastic and interested. It's good for developing self esteem particularly as the pegs allow even quite clumsy children to build easily. We tested it with a class of four to five year olds but older infants would work co-operatively and would, therefore, produce even bigger and better constructions.'

The Fun Abacus (pound;2.95 each) from Claire Publications

Tested by St Luke's Primary School, Cambridge

The Abacus is designed to stimulate interest in mathematics. It consists of a centre shaft with ten arms that revolve around the spindle when swung and then placed down on a flat surface to give random results of the arms falling to left or right. This enables the Abacus to be used as dice. One Abacus can be joined to another to create number lines of units, tens, hundreds etc. It comes in four colours and in packs of six or ten pieces with an instruction booklet.

* Claire Publications, Unit 8, Tey Brook Craft Centre, Great Tey, Colchester, Essex C06 1JE (01206 212755, fax 01206 211020). Reference PER 5.98.

Tester's Report

'A valuable and versatile teaching resource which is most suitable for top infants,' reports Year 12 teacher, Margaret Edwards. 'It has potential but I have reservations about its durability as the arms can be pulled off and are then easily lost in a busy classroom. It also requires considerable adult input when first introduced to the children.'

Food Activity Cards (pound;17.50) from TTS

Tested by Hobbayne Primary School, Hanwell, Middx

Thirteen recipes on wipeable, double-sided cards, given as illustrations on one side and as text on the reverse.

* Technology Teaching Systems Ltd, Monk Road, Alfreton, Derbyshire DE55 7RL (01773 830355, fax 01773 830325). Reference FOODCRDPER 5.98.

Tester's Report

'These could have been more pictorial,' reports KS1 Co-ordinator Helen Pound. 'They seem hard wearing and the children found them fun. I'm not sure about the recipes: we made fairy cakes, which were better with half the margarine and one egg! They are suitable for Infants and Lower Juniors.'

Carousel Primary Music Programme (from pound;49.70) from Ginn

Tested by Vicars Green School, Alperton, Middx

The programme is designed to ensure progression throughout the whole school and there is a set of resources for each year. These are divided into units based around primary topics and comprise a Group Discussion Book, listening material on cassette or CD and a Teacher's Resource Book. In addition for Juniors there are Photocopy Masters to provide further activities.

* Ginn amp; Company, Prebendal House, Parson's Fee, Aylesbury, Bucks HP20 2QY

(01296 394442, fax 01296 393433). Reference PER 5.98.

Tester's Report

'We looked at the Infants' materials and found them a useful resource, particularly the group discussion book and CD,' reports Year 6 teacher and Music Specialist, Sue Beck. 'If planned and taught effectively it is able to reach desirable outcomes. However, it would not fulfil all the National Curriculum requirements at this level. We also thought the Teachers' Book could be a bit more attractive and user friendly.'

Sneaky Sharks and Slug in a Jug (pound;4.95 each) from Orchard Toys

Tested by St Luke's Primary School, Cambridge

Sneaky Sharks is a matching game designed for two players. Slug in a Jug contains labelled cards which facilitate three rhyming games and is meant for two to four children. Both games are aimed at children between five and ten years.

* Orchard Toys, Debdale Lane, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5HN (0115 937 3547, fax 0115 937 6575). References 00 amp; 00 PER 5.98.

Tester's Report

'Sneaky Sharks took too long and the children initially lost interest when playing a normal pairing game. Then - excellent - they really relished being able to pinch their partner's pairs!,' reports Reception Class Teacher, Michaela Hoyland. 'Slug in a Jug is good for learning rhymes and the cards can be used in many ways. However, the game is too long and complicated for the youngest children. It's probably most suitable for children of seven years old and upwards.'

KS1 Flower Rubber Stamp Set (pound;15.50) from TTS

Tested by Hobbayne Primary School, Hanwell, Middx

A set of six stamps which the child can use to piece together their own flower, supplied with two ink pads in yellow and green.

* Technology Teaching Systems Ltd, Monk Road, Alfreton, Derbyshire DE55 7RL (01773 830355, fax 01773 830325). Reference RSFLOWPER 5.98.

Tester's Report

'These stamps can be used by children in science lessons when learning the names of flower parts - stem, petal, leaf etc - and in a variety of ways for pattern work,' reports Year 1 Co-ordinator, Helen Proud. 'Our children really enjoyed using them and we think they are suitable for all Infant classes.'

Reading Games (pound;15 for three games) from Know How Games

Tested by Alma Primary School, SE London

The games are designed to provide practice in reading groups of words with common spelling patterns and claim to be particularly suitable for children with specific learning difficulties to help them consolidate their knowledge of phonic word building skills. There are three games available.

w Know How Games Ltd, PO Box 73, Ilkley, West Yorks LS29 7XJ. Reference PER 5.98.

Tester's Report

'I didn't think these looked very inspiring,' reports Deputy Head, Dylan Lodge. 'I changed my opinion when Isaw how much the children enjoyed them. The A-Ugame proved the most successful. The instructions are clear and it can be easily adapted. Spider's Web was excellent for encouraging co-operation. All the boards seem durable and should last a long time'.

CD-Romuald (pound;29.99) from Attica Interactive

Tested by South Lodge Primary School, Ross-Shire

This is based on the BBC TV series 'Romuald the Reindeer' and offers 16 activities at three levels of difficulty so claims to be suitable for children from four to 11. The activities are as diverse as cooking a pizza, writing a song, examining the stars and learning to use e-mail! Along the way the children also meet Romuald's friends and listen to a commentary from Grandpa Ivy. The CD is suitable for a multimedia PC with 16MB Ram running Windows 95.

* Attica Interactive Ltd, Angel Court, St Clements, Oxford OX4 1AW (01865 791346, fax 01865 794561). Reference PER 5.98.

Tester's Report

'I liked the software very much,' reports Depute Head Teacher, Mary Sutherland. 'The learning potential is excellent as there is such variety within the three different levels for each activity. It provides reading, art, maths, writing, compass work, music making - even simple movie making although more explanation is needed in this area. Many of the activities require logical thinking which encourages collaboration and discussion between the children. It's most suitable for Top InfantsLower Juniors. The stipulated age range of four to 11 years is too wide. My five year olds could handle the easy section but I found that ten year olds did not like the slightly condescendng Grandpa Ivy - nor the Santa references. They felt it was a bit babyish.'

Step By Step Art For NurseryReception Classes (pound;12.95) from Topical Resources

Tested by Earlswood Infant School, Redhill, Surrey

This book by Dianne Williams offers suggestions for artwork with the youngest children in the school. A version for Years 1 and 2 will be available in September and one for KS2 is published next year.

* Topical Resources, PO Box 329, Broughton, Preston, Lancs 5LH (phone and fax 01772 863158).

Tester's Report

'All in all a very good resource,' reports Reception Teacher and Art Co-ordinator, AlisonTurnbull. 'It is very clear with one activity on each page under an appropriate picture example and I liked the fact that there are suggestions for developing the activity. There are links with real art so appreciation comes in, too. It's approprate for its suggested age which is ideal for us as we plan together across the nurseryreception span. I like the book enormously - it's something we shall go on using.'

All the prices mentioned on this page are exclusive of VAT unless otherwise stated.

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